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CONCACAF Nations League: what happens if there’s a tie in the quarter-finals?

The four Nations League finalists - and CONCACAF’s automatic Copa América qualifiers - are to be decided in this week’s quarter-final second legs.

Definido el Final Four de la Nations League

In the second legs of the CONCACAF Nations League quarter-finals this week, extra time and penalties will be used to decide the winner if need be - but these tiebreakers could be avoided by the away-goals rule.

How do things stand after Nations League QF first legs?

The USMNT, who are two-time Nations League winners, visit Trinidad and Tobago on Monday in the first of the last-eight deciders. Gregg Berhalter’s men are in pole position to progress, having secured a 3-0 advantage in the first leg in Austin on Thursday. Later on Monday, Panama will also be defending a 3-0 lead when they host Costa Rica in Panama City.

On Tuesday, the Nations League quarter-finals conclude when Canada bid to make good on a 2-1 first-leg win over Jamaica in Toronto, before Mexico seek to overturn a 2-0 deficit against Honduras in Mexico City.

Mexico face an uphill battle to qualify after losing their first leg 2-0 to Honduras.
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Mexico face an uphill battle to qualify after losing their first leg 2-0 to Honduras.Jose Luis Melgarejo

What tiebreakers will be used in the QFs?

Away goals

If the aggregate score is level at the end of normal time in the second leg, CONCACAF’s Nations League regulations state that the first tiebreaker to be used is away goals. Under this system, the team that has scored more goals in its away leg will advance from the quarter-finals.

Extra time

If the aggregate score is level after 90 minutes and both teams have scored the same amount of away goals, the second leg will head into a half-hour period of extra time consisting of two 15-minute halves. The additional 30 minutes will be played in full, whatever happens; soccer dabbled with a next-scorer-wins rule in the late 1990s and early 2000s - known as the ‘golden goal’ - but quickly abandoned the experiment.

Significantly, the away-goals rule does not apply in extra time.

Penalty shootout

If the teams cannot be separated by extra time, the winner will be decided by penalty kicks. In a shootout, both teams get five penalties each, with spot-kicks taken alternately by each side. The team that scores the most penalties wins. If one side establishes an unassailable lead before one or both of the teams has taken all of its five penalties, the shootout ends.

If the sides remain level after five penalties each, they take additional rounds of single sudden-death kicks until one scores and the other misses.

Nations League quarter-final second legs: full schedule

Monday 20 November 2023:

  • Trinidad and Tobago vs USMNT: 7pm ET
  • Panama vs Costa Rica: 9pm ET

Tuesday 21 November 2023:

  • Canada vs Jamaica: 7:30pm ET
  • Mexico vs Honduras: 9:30pm ET

What is at stake in Nations League QFs?

The quarter-final winners will all progress to the 2024 Nations League finals, which are to be held in March 2024 in Arlington, Texas.

The four Nations League finalists will also secure automatic qualification for next summer’s Copa América, at which CONCACAF nations have been allocated six spots. The region’s final two Copa América berths will be contested by the four losing quarter-finalists, at a play-in tournament in Frisco, Texas, next March.


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