UPDATED Concacaf World Cup Qualifying Schedule Released, What Does it Mean for USMNT?
by Bart Keeler After FIFA approved three matches in certain international windows, Concacaf finalized its schedule for the Qualifiers for FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. As expected, the U.S. men’s national team will start the final round of qualification in September 2021.
FIFA also approved a release date of June 28, 2021, for the Concacaf Gold Cup 2021 and Nov. 14, 2022, for the World Cup finals in Qatar.
The first round group stage will play in March 2021, four matches per team. Each group winner will advance to a playoff round in June 2021.
This the same window will hold the Concacaf Nations League Finals, which includes Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico and the U.S.
The three playoff winners and five auto-qualifiers will play three matches during the nine-day windows in September and October 2021 and January and March 2022. November 2022 will only have two matches. This all totals the 14 matches of The Octagon.
Here is the final round schedule as it stands within the FIFA Calendar:
Aug. 31–Sept. 7, 2021: USA @ A/F Winner, USA vs. B/E Winner, USA @ Honduras
Oct. 4–12, 2021: USA vs. Jamaica, USA @ C/D Winner, USA vs. Costa Rica
Nov. 8–16, 2021: USA vs. Mexico, USA @ Jamaica
Jan. 24–Feb. 1, 2022: USA vs. A/F Winner, USA @ B/E Winner, USA v. Honduras
March 21–29, 2022: USA @ Mexico, USA v. C/D Winner, USA @ Costa Rica
All this leads to the draw for the 2022 World Cup in April then FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, Nov. 21–Dec. 18, 2021.
What does it mean?
Most importantly, the final match window could be absolute hell for the USMNT. Trips to Mexico and Costa Rica sandwich a home match against Curaçao or Panama, meaning points will be hard to come by in any of those matches.
Travel will be extremely taxing on players of all nations as they’ll have to fly at least twice in a window, sometimes four times after arriving to their country. For the U.S., the first window could mean a round trip to/from Trinidad & Tobago then a trip to Honduras. Luckily, the window in which the USMNT will play at Canada has two home matches in it; no travel to the Great White North then to the Caribbean for the Yanks.
Countering the difficult March 2022 window is what should be a manageable January 2022 set of matches. The USMNT will play a qualifying team at home, travel to either Canada or Haiti, then host Honduras. Nine points are possible and seven are likely. Berhalter’s men will need to navigate the opening window against these same three teams, but with trips to Honduras and potentially Trinidad to scrap for points.
With 14 matches in this campaign, it will definitely be a more grueling World Cup qualification cycle than before. However, the schedule only features two teams inside the FIFA World Rankings top 50 so points on the road may be more in play that in previous runs.