Posted: Thursday, July 11, 2019. 1:54 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: Ranked 166th in the world by FIFA as of this writing, Belize’s Jaguars face a tough road to qualify as one of potentially four teams from the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Football (CONCACAF) region for the 2022 Men’s World Cup in Qatar.
This week, CONCACAF announced changes to the qualifying format that appear to favor the “haves” of regional football and not the “have-nots.”
In a nutshell per CBS Sports, the top six teams in the region on the FIFA rankings next June qualify to the “hexagonal” round, in which three automatic qualifying spots are available. As of right now, those six teams would be No. 18 Mexico, No. 30 United States, No. 39 Costa Rica, No. 54 Jamaica, No. 61 Honduras and No. 69 El Salvador.
The remaining teams play a separate tournament in which the winner, after a group stage followed by a knockout stage for eight group winners, faces the fourth-place team in the hexagonal in a playoff to qualify to the continental playoff for one of the last two spots. There will be five groups of four and three groups of three drawn next year and matches start in September.
“This new FIFA World Cup Qualifying format, based on the FIFA rankings, makes every competitive match count,” CONCACAF President Victor Montagliani said in a statement. “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.”
So what are Belize’s options? Start by winning Group A of League B in the CONCACAF Nations League in September and try to make the top six by next June to go for an automatic qualifying spot. Or, try to play their way through the lower-level tournament and hope for a good draw.
In intercontinental playoffs, CONCACAF’s record has been up and down. In five appearances since 1994, Honduras fell to Australia in 2018; Mexico easily handled New Zealand to qualify for the 2014 World Cup; Costa Rica narrowly lost to Uruguay to miss out on the 2010 tournament, Trinidad & Tobago snuck past Bahrain to qualify for Germany 2006, and Canada lost to Australia in penalties to miss out on the 1994 competition.
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