U.S., Mexico straight to Hex in new CONCACAF format
The United States and Mexico are almost certain to go straight to the six-team Hexagonal round of qualifying for Qatar 2022, with CONCACAF announcing new rules for the next World Cup.
The top six-ranked teams in the FIFA rankings after the June 2020 international window will automatically be included in the home-and-away Hexagonal. The top three will qualify for Qatar 2022.
Gold Cup winner Mexico is currently a long way ahead of those outside the top six, meaning it's virtually inconceivable that El Tri won't be in the Hex, while the United States and Costa Rica are both comfortably positioned.
Jamaica, Honduras and El Salvador currently make up the top six, while Panama, Canada, Curacao, Trinidad and Tobago and Haiti are all pushing forward.
The teams that aren't in the Hexagonal will be involved in a separate tournament involving the teams ranked between seventh and 35th. Those 29 teams will be drawn into eight groups, with the winners of those groups advancing to a knockout phase. The country that wins the knockout phase will play against the fourth-placed finisher in the Hexagonal in October 2021 for a spot in the FIFA intercontinental playoff.
"This new FIFA World Cup Qualifying format, based on the FIFA rankings, makes every competitive match count," said CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani in a statement. "Alongside the CONCACAF Nations League, and our expanded Gold Cup, it will raise standards of play to unprecedented levels and develop the sport across the region."
World Cup qualifying for the Hex will begin in September 2020 and be concluded after the September 2021 international dates.