Canada will open its 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign March 25 at home to Bermuda, the first of a possible 20 matches the Canadian men will have to play if they are to book their ticket to Qatar.
The qualifying draw, which was held in mid-August, was fleshed out Friday with exact dates by CONCACAF. Several previous qualifying road maps were rendered useless by the pandemic, with international match windows coming and going without play.
The top five teams in the region, which covers North and Central America and the Caribbean, skip the first two rounds and go directly to the final qualifying round-robin round.
The other 30, including 72nd-ranked Canada, will battle it out to see which three join No. 9 Mexico, the 22nd-ranked Americans, No. 47 Jamaica, No. 51 Costa Rica and No. 64 Honduras.
After opening Group B play against No. 169 Bermuda, the Canadians play March 28 at the 193rd-ranked Cayman Islands and June 5 at No. 200 Aruba before wrapping up first-round play June 8 at home to No. 141 Suriname.
The six group winners advance to the second round, with the Group B victor facing the winner of Group E (which consists of No. 84 Haiti, No. 149 Nicaragua, No. 170 Belize, No. 175 Saint Lucia and the 203rd-ranked Turks and Caicos Islands) in a home-and-away series.
Should Canada survive the first round, it will open the second round June 12 at the Group E winner before hosting the rematch on June 15.
Success in the second round would mean the Canadian men open the final round-robin in September at home to Honduras, away to the U.S., and home to the A/F winner.
In October, the Canadians would visit Mexico and Jamaica and host the C/D winner before closing out 2021 play in November at home to Costa Rica and Mexico.
Canada would then visit Honduras, host the U.S. and visit A/F, all in January 2022, before closing out in March 2022 at Costa Rica, home to Jamaica and at C/D.
The top three teams will qualify directly to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. The fourth-placed team qualifies for the FIFA Intercontinental Playoff, scheduled for June 2022.
Canadian venues will be announced at a later date.
Coach John Herdman is looking at holding a camp in January, as the team has done in recent years.
The Canadian men, who are co-hosting the 2026 World Cup along with Mexico and the U.S., have only ever qualified for one World Cup — 1986 in Mexico where they exited after failing to score in losses to France, Hungary and the Soviet Union.
2022 CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying
March and June 2021 (four match-dates)
Group A: El Salvador, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, Montserrat, U.S. Virgin Islands.
Group B: Canada, Suriname, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Aruba.
Group C: Curacao, Guatemala, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Cuba, British Virgin Islands.
Group D: Panama, Dominican Republic, Barbados, Dominica, Anguilla.
Group E: Haiti, Nicaragua, Belize, Saint Lucia, Turks and Caicos Islands.
Group F: Trinidad and Tobago, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Guyana, Puerto Rico, Bahamas.
June 2021 (two match-dates for home-and-away series)
Group A winner vs Group F winner
Group B winner vs Group E winner
Group C winner vs Group D winner
September, October, November 2021; January and March 2022 (14 match-dates)
A round-robin features the three second-round winners along with Mexico, the U.S, Jamaica, Costa Rica and Honduras. The eight teams will play each other home and away, with each country playing 14 matches.
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press