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Friday, September 26, 2014

2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying: CONCACAF format and seeding proposal

Three days ago, ESPN's Fernando Palomo published insider details (in Spanish) regarding the proposal CONCACAF sent to its member federations.

The previous format featured 2 group stages. The first group stage has been replaced by two KO rounds in the proposed format.

The most important bit (for me) is the seeding criteria. No suprise, FIFA ranking. But CONCACAF intend to use the August 2014 edition, although the matches only start in March 2015. That seems a bit strange. Remember the Panama FA in 2011 published an official protest as they thought the July 2011 ranking would have been the correct seeding criteria. I think they won't protest this time around as they will enter the competition straight in the group stage.

So here's the format.

Round 1

Dates: 23 & 31 March 2015.
KO round involving the bottom 14 teams (ranked 22 - 35).

Pot 1: St. Kitts and Nevis, Belize, Montserrat, Dominica, Barbados, Bermuda, Nicaragua
Pot 2: Turks and Caicos Islands, Curaçao, US Virgin Islands, Bahamas, Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands, Anguilla

Round 2

Dates: 8 & 16 June 2015.
KO round involving teams ranked 9-21 and the 7 Round 1 winners.

Pot 1: Canada, Cuba, Aruba, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Suriname, Guatemala, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia, Grenada
Pot 2: Antigua and Barbuda, Guyana, Puerto Rico + 7 winners from Round 1

The official preliminary draw takes places on July 25th, 2015.

Round 3

Dates: 31 August - 8 September 2015
KO round involving teams ranked 7-8 and the 10 Round 2 winners.

Jamaica, Haiti + 10 winners from Round 2. Jamaica and Haiti will be in Pot 1 with the 4 best ranked winners from Round 2 according to the August 2014 FIFA ranking.

Round 4

Group stage involving teams ranked 1-6 and the 6 Round 3 winners.

Group stage (3 groups x 4 teams): with Costa Rica, Mexico, USA, Honduras, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago, plus 6 winners from Round 3.

Round 5

The Hex.

Comparing August and September, who will vote against?
  • Guatemala, 6th in September, would go straight to the group stage if the September ranking would be used
  • Antigua and Barbuda - unseeded in Round 2, would enter the competition in Round 3 as a seeded team
  • St. Kitts and Nevis - seeded in Round 1, would enter the competition in Round 2 as a seed
  • Curaçao - unseeded in Round 1, would enter as a non-seed in Round 2
  • El Salvador - seeded in Round 2, would enter as a seed in Round 3
Who will vote for?
  • Trinidad and Tobago - straight to the group stage with the August ranking, would be seeded in Round 2
  • Jamaica and Haiti - Round 3 seeds, would be Round 2 seeds.
  • Grenada and Suriname - Round 2 seeds, would be Round 2 non-seeds.
  • Guyana and Puerto Rico - non-seeds in Round 2, would enter the competition as Round 1 seeds.
  • Nicaragua - would lose Round 1 seed status if the September ranking would be chosen.

About me:

Christian, husband, father x 3, programmer, Romanian. Started the blog in March 2007. Quit in April 2018. You can find me on LinkedIn.


  1. This proposal makes no sense. It would be better to have a qualification process in 3 rounds

    Round 1: KO Stage with the bottom 24 teams
    Dates: June 2015

    World Cup Draw: July 2015

    Round 2: 12 winners from R1 join teams ranked 4-11. 5 groups of 4 teams compete in Round Robin.
    Dates: Sept 2015, Nov 2015, March 2016

    Round 3: The 5 group winners from R2 plus teams ranked 1-3 (Costa Rica, Mexico and United States) compete in a final Octogonal.
    Dates: Sept, Oct, Nov 2016 & March, June, Sep, Oct 2017

  2. Some very interesting things -- some said, and some not said.

    Remember four years ago when there was talk about CONCACAF having its World Cup representation increased from 3.5 spots to 4.0 spots? And the change in format that went with it? Well, looks like there is zero appetite for that discussion this time around.

    Sounds like a driving force for the change is the 2016 Copa America scheduling.

    In some ways, I think it makes sense to base seedings on the first FIFA ranking following a World Cup as it marks the end of a cycle. Including things like the recent Copa Centroamerica can distort things.

    Not a fan of T&T being one of the top 6...

    I find it odd that the 7th and 8th ranked teams go straight to the third round -- why only two teams? I would have teams 7-10 go straight to the third round (which would require 18 teams instead of 14 teams participate in the first round).

  3. With the Jan 12th announcement on CONCACAF qualifying schedule, this format looks like a done deal.

    Does anyone have any insight why 2 teams (Jamaica and Haiti) were given byes to the *third* round instead of being included in the *second* round (which would have meant 10 teams in the first round, 24 teams in the second round, and 12 teams in the third round).

    Maybe there was some wheeling and dealing? "Hey, J & H, if you vote for our August 2014 ranking plan, we'll move you from the second round to the third round"?