When are the playoffs for the 2022 World Cup?
Times, dates, and format of the last stage of the qualifying competitions in UEFA, CONMEBOL, and CONCACAF for Qatar's 2022 football World Cup.
Qualifying for the 2022 World Cup began in summer 2019 and since then has been seriously affected by the global pandemic, with many of the qualifying competitions being suspended.
World Cup 2022: qualifying process
For the following year's World Cup, FIFA introduced a revamped qualifying process with the idea to make it more exciting and spectator-friendly. There are two stages like in the previous years (group stage and playoffs) with slight changes in the format of the competitions.
Teams were split into groups of five or six. The group winners eventually qualify for the World Cup.
Apart from the already qualified teams of Germany and Denmark, there are 13 places more available at the Qatar World Cup for the European teams. Teams were divided into ten groups of five or six (the four teams who reached the 2021 UEFA Nations League finals – Belgium, France, Italy, Spain – are in the smaller groups). The ten group winners qualify for the World Cup.
Ten group runners-up are joined by the two best group winners of the 2020/21 UEFA Nations League in the playoffs. Furthermore, teams with an overall ranking that have neither qualified directly for the final tournament as European Qualifiers group winners nor entered the playoffs already as European Qualifiers group runners-up. On November 26, 2021, the 12 teams will be drawn into three playoff paths for one-off semi-finals and a final. The three route winners qualify for the World Cup.
All ten nations, members of the CONMEBOL, compete each other home and away in their qualifying process. The first four nations qualify straight to the finals. The fifth-place team will proceed into an intercontinental playoff (additional draw yet to be determined).
The first four rounds of qualifiers in March and September 2020 were suspended, and it eventually began in October 2020. Nevertheless, the two planned rounds of matches in March 2021 were postponed due to concerns with European players traveling to South America amid the pandemic.
Qualifying continued with two rounds of games before Copa America in early June 2021.
There will be an added international break in January 2022 to finish qualifying in full in the current format.
CONCACAF (North America, Central America, Caribbean)
CONCACAF has 35 FIFA-affiliated nations, many of them with a minor role in world football. A renewed qualification manner was established for the 2022 edition, which was supposed to begin in September 2020 and run to September 2021. Yet, it was dropped due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The competition format had to be redone, and the organizers established a three-round qualifying system.
In the first round, nations that placed 6-35 in the FIFA World Ranking formed six groups of five. Each team played every other team in their group only once, in March and June 2021. The six group winners advanced.
The second round saw the six group winners playing home and away in a direct elimination format from June 12 to 15, 2021. The three winners then progressed to the final third round.
In the final round, the winners of the previous contest Canada, El Salvador, and Panama, joined the teams ranked 1-5 in FIFA's World Ranking (Costa Rica, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, United States). The eight teams will play each other home and away, a sum of 14 matches. The top three will qualify directly, with the fourth-placed team going to an intercontinental playoff in June 2022.
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