Already Concacaf's new World Cup 2022 qualifying schedule in jeopardy

Just two weeks after Concacaf released its revised plans for the COVID-impacted World Cup 2022 qualifying campaign, its president, Victor Montagliani, admitted that it will likely be changed again.

Speaking on Canada's OneSoccer about the new Gold Cup format introduced for 2021, Montagliani said the first two games in the preliminary round set for October won't likely be played.

"I have a meeting at the end of this week with FIFA on this issue," he said, "and for me to say that it likely will go ahead would be a lie. It likely won't go ahead in October. We're actually looking at what even November would look like."

Right now, the plan is for 30 Concacaf teams to compete in six five-team groups and play four games over the October and November 2020 windows, and the six winners be paired off and play two-game series in March 2021. The 14-game Octagonal -- to which the USA, Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras and Jamaica have already qualified and will be joined by the three preliminary-round winners -- is scheduled to kick off in June 2021 with four games.

"So what we're talking about with FIFA is where would these dates that we lose, where would they go on the calendar in 2021-'22," Montagliani added. "There is an opportunity to put them there. So, basically everything would shift from where it is now down a bit. I even said when we announced this, even if we lost October and November from an official competition standpoint, I was comfortable the calendar would allow enough flexibility to continue."

Just where the flexibility is in the schedule to add four dates in 2021 and 2022 to complete Concacaf qualifying is unclear without adding more international windows, like FIFA has done for January 2021. Right now, there are 16 dates from March 2021 to March 2022.

For now, the format won't change, but Montagliani warned that would change for Concacaf and other confederations if dates start getting wiped out in 2021.

The main issues are travel restrictions and quarantine requirements that make international travel problematic.

Elsewhere ...

-- South America (Conmebol) must complete its 18 matches on schedule by playing in October and November 2020. (It has reserved two June 2021 dates for the start of the Copa America.)
-- Asia (AFC) has already postponed qualifiers scheduled for October and November 2020 until 2021. It must still get in 16 games, possible if no windows are wiped out in 2021 and 2022.
-- Europe (UEFA) doesn't begin qualifying until 2021. It needs 10 dates and has blocked out the four-game June 2021 window to play the rescheduled European Championship.
-- Of the five major confederations, Africa (CAF) is in the best shape, needing only eight dates in 2020-21 to complete qualifying.

Right now, the plan is for World Cup qualifying to end in June 2022 with the intercontinental playoffs. (The UEFA qualifying playoffs are scheduled for March 2022.)

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