Reggae Boyz face new WCQ challenges
Jamaica will still compete in the final round of Concacaf World Cup qualifiers but now they are facing a crowded path to the FIFA's flagship event in 2022.
This after Concacaf announced changes to the format yesterday which sees the traditional final round hexagonal tournament, commonly known as the 'hex', being replaced with a new eight-team tournament format which runs from June 2021 through to March 2022. The top five teams in the region, according to the July 16 FIFA rankings, have guaranteed passage and the final three teams to be determined among the 30 other member nations.
Jamaica, having remained in fourth place in the rankings, seal their spot in the final round which will still have the top three teams qualify for Qatar 2022 and the fourth- place team entering the continental play-off. Mexico, United States, Costa Rica and Honduras will join the Reggae Boyz as automatic qualifiers.
The format was forced to be revamped as the coronavirus pandemic caused the September international window to be suspended which would have included the start of the qualifiers. The final round will last through to March 2022 and the continental play-offs are scheduled for June 2022.
To determine the three other final round placings, the 30 teams will be drawn into six groups of five to contest matches starting in October. The six highest ranked teams among them (El Salvador, Canada, Curacao, Panama, Haiti and Trinidad and Tobago) will be pre-seeded into groups A-F. Teams will play each other once with group winners advancing to the second round. From there they will play each other in home and away play-off matches next March with the last three teams to be determined from those three games to complete the final round of eight.
In a press release, Concacaf president Victor Montagliani believes that they were able to achieve a level playing field for all countries to compete. "With the launch of the Concacaf Nations League in 2018 and the expansion of the Gold Cup in 2019, we have consistently provided more opportunities for all our member associations to play and compete on the international stage," Montagliani said. That was our starting point for developing this new format and we believe we have struck the right balance."