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CONCACAF changes W/Cup qualifying format.
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Lawrence: We have to treat every game as a fi­nal

T&T's chances of qual­i­fy­ing for the FI­FA World Cup in 2022 and be­yond have be­come in­creas­ing­ly hard­er.

The Con­fed­er­a­tion of North, Cen­tral Amer­i­ca and the Caribbean Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tions (CON­CA­CAF) on Wednes­day an­nounced a new for­mat which could be a ma­jor both­er for T&T and the wider re­gion­al na­tions.

The re­struc­tured com­pe­ti­tion will com­prise of two parts, to take place si­mul­ta­ne­ous­ly dur­ing the FI­FA-match win­dows in 2020 and 2021.

The first part of the CON­CA­CAF qual­i­fiers, to be played in a Hexag­o­nal for­mat, will be con­test­ed among the top six ranked CON­CA­CAF Mem­ber As­so­ci­a­tions based on the FI­FA Rank­ing pub­lished af­ter the FI­FA win­dow of June 2020. Af­ter home-and-away round-robin play dur­ing the FI­FA Match win­dows of Sep­tem­ber, Oc­to­ber and No­vem­ber of 2020, and March and Sep­tem­ber of 2021, the top three teams will qual­i­fy di­rect­ly to the FI­FA World Cup Qatar 2022.

The sec­ond part of the qual­i­fiers, to be played across a Group Stage and knock­out phase, will in­volve the CON­CA­CAF Mem­ber As­so­ci­a­tions ranked 7-35 ac­cord­ing to the FI­FA Rank­ing pub­lished af­ter the FI­FA win­dow of June 2020. For the group stage, these 29 par­tic­i­pat­ing CON­CA­CAF Mem­ber As­so­ci­a­tions will be di­vid­ed in­to eight groups (five groups of four teams and three groups of three teams).

Af­ter a home-and-away round-robin plays dur­ing the FI­FA Match win­dows of Sep­tem­ber, Oc­to­ber and No­vem­ber of 2020, the first-place fin­ish­ers in each of the eight groups will qual­i­fy for the knock out stage.

Na­tion­al coach Den­nis Lawrence, in an im­me­di­ate re­ac­tion to the new for­mat yes­ter­day, said the change means they will have to play every game as a fi­nal. Lawrence, whose So­ca War­riors are ranked 10th in the CON­CA­CAF and 92nd in the world, said, "Based on the facts and the in­for­ma­tion pre­sent­ed, if you are ac­tu­al­ly in the top six ranked CON­CA­CAF teams on the Fi­fa rank­ings at this mo­ment, you’ll prob­a­bly be think­ing you’re in a favourable po­si­tion, and all you’ve got to do is pro­tect your sta­tus un­til June 2020."

He not­ed, "If you aren’t, then it means it will be a lot more dif­fi­cult in terms of the Road to Qatar 2022, and you’ve got a lot of work to do to try and get in­to the top six. If not, then you will have to bat­tle it out for a chance to have a go at the fourth spot."

Gi­ant Mex­i­co ex­pect­ed­ly leads the CON­CA­CAF re­gion, with the Unit­ed States in sec­ond and Cos­ta Ri­ca and Ja­maica se­cur­ing the third and fourth spots.

The oth­er teams Hon­duras (5th), El Sal­vador (6th), Pana­ma (7th), Cana­da (8th) and Cu­ra­cao com­pletes the six oth­er po­si­tions, but these are set to change when the new rank­ings that fol­low the just con­clud­ed CON­CA­CAF Gold Cup are re­leased.

Lawrence said, "It is dif­fi­cult, more than be­fore now for the teams ranked 7-35, and favourable for the top six ranked teams. We just have to see how it plays out. What it means now, and not that it wasn’t im­por­tant be­fore, it shows how huge­ly im­por­tant it is for us to do well in every game that we play be­tween now and June, in the FI­FA win­dows. Every game is like a fi­nal now to get in­to the Hex. If we want to im­prove on our rank­ings we have to get re­sults."

The quar­ter­fi­nals, semi­fi­nals and fi­nal match­es of the knock out phase will be played in a home-and-away di­rect elim­i­na­tion for­mat, dur­ing the FI­FA Match win­dows of March, June and Sep­tem­ber 2021.

The win­ner of the knock­out phase will face the fourth-place fin­ish­er of the Hexag­o­nal group to de­ter­mine the CON­CA­CAF rep­re­sen­ta­tive in the FI­FA in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal play­off. The home-and-away play­off match­es be­tween the two CON­CA­CAF rep­re­sen­ta­tives will take place dur­ing the FI­FA Match Win­dow of Oc­to­ber 2021.

RELATED NEWS

Concacaf Announces Format for the 2022 FIFA World Cup Confederation Qualifiers
Concacaf.com


The Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (Concacaf) today announced the format for the 2022 FIFA World Cup Confederation Qualifiers. The restructured competition will be composed of two parts, which will take place simultaneously during the FIFA-match windows in 2020 and 2021.
 
The first part of the Concacaf qualifiers, which will be played in a Hexagonal format, will be contested between the top six ranked Concacaf Member Associations based on the FIFA Ranking published after the FIFA window of June 2020. After home-and-away round robin play during the FIFA Match windows of September, October and November of 2020 and March and September of 2021, the top three teams will qualify directly to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™. 

The second part of the qualifiers, played across a Group Stage and knockout phase, will involve the Concacaf Member Associations ranked 7-35 according to the FIFA Ranking published after the FIFA window of June 2020. For the group stage, these 29 participating Concacaf Member Associations will be divided into eight groups (five groups of four teams and three groups of three teams). After home-and-away round robin play during the FIFA Match windows of September, October and November of 2020, the first-place finishers in each of the eight group will qualify for the knock out stage.
 
The quarter finals, semifinals and final matches of the knock out phase will all be played in a home-and-away direct elimination format, during the FIFA Match windows of March, June and September 2021.
 
The winner of the knockout phase will face the fourth-place finisher of the Hexagonal group to determine the Concacaf representative in the FIFA intercontinental playoff. The home-and-away playoff matches between the two Concacaf representatives will take place during the FIFA Match Window of October 2021.

“The love for the game in this region is growing rapidly and our diverse and dynamic communities want a clear pathway to world-class football.  Through our freshly designed formats — across FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, Concacaf Nations League and Concacaf Gold Cup — we are staging more competitive international matches than ever-before to help these communities fulfill their potential,” said Concacaf President Victor Montagliani. 
 
“This new FIFA World Cup Qualifying format, based on the FIFA rankings, makes every competitive match count.  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.  Making the leading Concacaf nations stronger on the global stage, while giving our emerging footballing nations the chance to pursue their dreams of playing at a World Cup.”
 
The date, location and procedures for the draw which will determine the groups and match schedule for the Hexagonal will be announced later this year.