Power-Ranking the 8 Teams in the Final Round of Concacaf Qualifiers for Qatar 2022
by Bart Keeler
The final round of Concacaf World Cup qualifying kicks off Thursday. It will pack 14 matches into five match windows, running through March 2022. It’s a loaded schedule, meaning a lot of teams will have to endure a grind and a test of the depth of their player pools.
Before the octagonal round begins I want to lay out what I think is the current ranking of the eight teams. I’ll do this after each window as well.
1. USA (10): Gregg Berhalter won Nations League and Gold Cup with two separate rosters. There are 12 Americans playing in UEFA Champions League this season, and a slew of others playing in Europe’s top leagues. The USMNT has the most depth of any team, which will come in handy over these three-game windows and long campaign. They’re riding high now and it’ll be important to start WCQ strong.
2. Mexico (9): Yes, they lost in Nations League and Gold Cup finals, but they still got there. Add a good Olympic tournament and this program is still in a good place. Despite what some El Tri followers may think, the sky is not falling and they’re still the team to beat in WCQ. Mexico has the best domestic league in Concacaf, which can stock the national team each window. However, there is still a question about the No. 9, but everywhere else is solid.
3. Canada (59): Alphonso Davies, Jonathan David, Cyle Larin, etc. make up a great attack for CanMNT. But will their defense hold up against better competition? Canada is the most-improved team since the 2018 cycle and Herdman has been successful for Canada. The team has bought into his vision and each other. I think they finally ascend to a spot in Concacaf’s top tier.
4. Honduras (63): This is still a really good program and their style of play will steal them points… but will they win enough games? The defense-first mindset has helped them in tournaments but they faltered this summer when facing quality opponents. They’ll be a tough opponent to play away, but can they counter-attack their way to the World Cup?
5. Jamaica (50): I’m not ready to jump on the Jamaica bandwagon. They usually show well in summer tournaments but have continually struggled in WCQ. Depth is always the issue for them. They have promising talent in several England-Jamaica dual nationals, but the Reggae Boyz have yet to show they are better than the teams ahead of them on this list. Will their better players be available each window?
6. Costa Rica (44): The Ticos have fallen hard since their best performance ever in the 2018 cycle. Luiz Fernando Suarez called 11 over-30 players into the squad and eight more in the 25-30 range. A disappointing Nations League window (they lost every match) and an early Gold Cup exit leave a lot of doubts heading into qualifying. However, it’s still tough to play in San Jose, which could help them find enough points to be relevant.
7. El Salvador (64): They’re fun, they’re really improved, but they just don’t have the talent to compete with everyone else. Hugo Perez has the team playing very well but can that continue to fill the talent gaps on the field? Maybe. La Selecta will likely give opponents headaches but I just don’t see them earning enough road points to be able to be a major contender. And just about every other team should aim to steal points in San Salvador.
8. Panama (74): The third Concacaf team to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Panama is nowhere near the level they reached in the last cycle. Los Canaleros did not make it out of their Gold Cup group and, other than beating Curacao in the qualifying play-offs, don’t have a notable win in 2021. This is the most winnable road match for the other seven teams.