CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani says Men’s World Cup 2022 North American regional qualifying is unlikely to start in October as planned and most likely won’t begin until March 2021.
Montagliani told Canadian website OneSoccer that the planned timeline was probably unfeasible given the latest COVID-19 safety precautions and travel restrictions in the region.
“No, it’s likely not to go ahead in October,” Montagliani said. “For me to say that it likely will go ahead would be a lie. It likely won’t go ahead in October. We’re actually looking at what even November would look like.”
Montagliani said the March match window offers the most likely option as 30 teams are set to play group matches to determine six winners who advance to second-round knockout rounds that determine which three reach the final qualifying group.
“What we’re talking about with FIFA is where would these dates that we lose, where would they go on the calendar in 2021-’22,” Montagliani said.
“There’s an opportunity to put them there. So, basically everything would shift from where it is now down a bit.”
Montagliani does not plan to change the format, figuring to wedge in qualifiers as needed next year after talks with FIFA.
“Obviously, if in ’21 we start losing dates — it’s not just CONCACAF, I think every federation, including FIFA itself — would have to go back to the drawing board,” he said.
“We think football will be back where it needs to be come next March.”
The plan unveiled last month drew 30 teams into six groups with qualifiers to be played in October and November and group winners facing two-leg second-round matches in March.
Second-round winners would join the final group for matches starting in June under the current schedule, a double round-robin to continue in September, October and November 2021 before concluding in March 2022.
The United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, Jamaica and Honduras are already into the final round by virtue of world rankings.
The three top teams among the last eight would advance to Qatar 2022 with the fourth-place team facing a playoff against a squad from another region in June 2022 for a final spot.