The United States men's national team learned what its World Cup qualifying schedule and path to Qatar will look like after CONCACAF held the draw for the qualifiers on Wednesday. The format had to be changed due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, leaving a shortened window to get qualifying completed.
The U.S. joins the final stage of qualifying in June of 2021, joining Mexico, Costa Rica, Jamaica and Honduras, and in total there will be eight teams instead of the usual hexagonal. The U.S. will face Mexico in October of 2021 and January of 2022.
Some of their opponents have yet to be determined and will come after other matches are playing ahead of the final stage. Here's how things look, with specific days to be confirmed.
The U.S. will have 12 total matches. Here's the schedule:
June 2021: at A/F winner; vs. B/E winner
June 2021: at Honduras; vs. Jamaica
Sept. 2021: at C/D winner; vs. Costa Rica
Oct. 2021: vs. Mexico; at Jamaica
Nov. 2021: vs. A/F winner; at B/E winner
Jan. 2022: vs. Honduras; at Mexico
March 2022: vs. C/D winner; at Costa Rica
So which teams could be squaring off against the Americans? Well, that is where it gets complicated and patience is required. The first qualifying round looks like this:
- Group A - El Salvador, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, Montserrat, U.S. Virgin Islands
- Group B - Canada, Suriname, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Aruba
- Group C - Curaçao, Guatemala, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Cuba, British Virgin Islands
- Group D - Panama, Dominican Republic, Barbados, Dominica, Anguilla
- Group E - Haiti, Nicaragua, Belize, Saint Lucia, Turks and Caicos Islands
- Group F - Trinidad and Tobago, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Guyana, Puerto Rico, Bahamas
From that round, the winner of each group will play in a playoff for the chance to advance to the final stage. That playoff for a spot in the final round of qualifying would look like this:
- Group A winner vs. Group F winner
- Group B winner vs. Group E winner
- Group C winner vs. Group D winner
That's where we get the last three teams to finish off the final eight, which should kick qualifying into overdrive. USMNT failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Three teams from CONCACAF will qualify directly to the 2022 World Cup, while the fourth-place team would enter an intercontinental playoff.