With Copa América 2024 and the 2026 World Cup in the offing, the confederation has unveiled its qualifying campaign along with a new Nations League format.
The IS US They will only need to win one of two possible home-and-away series against Concacaf opposition to qualify for the 2024 Copa América, the regional governing body revealed on Tuesday as it unveiled its 2023-25 senior men’s tournament structure.
Next year’s Copa América, which will be held in the United States, will feature six Concacaf qualifiers alongside the 10 South American nations that traditionally compete in the prestigious tournament. Those six Concacaf teams will be provided with a revamped 2023-24 Nations League, which will be streamlined for the top countries in the region. The Americans will get their first Copa qualifying game this November.
Concacaf also revealed the qualifying format for the expanded 48-team 2026 World Cup, which will be played across the US, Mexico and Canada. The three host nations will be exempt, leaving the remaining 32 eligible members in the region to compete for three automatic berths and then two spots in an intercontinental game. Concacaf World Cup qualifiers will not begin until March 2024.
Here’s a breakdown of how the restructured Nations League and qualifying will work for Copa América 2024 and World Cup 2026 qualification:
Concacaf will have a busy three years as hosts of the League of Nations, Copa América and the World Cup.
League of Nations
It starts with the Nations League, the three-tier secondary competition launched in 2018 and designed primarily to provide more games for the smaller members of the region. Its main competitive objective for the top of the confederation is to qualify for the Gold Cup, the biennial Concacaf championship.
Although the first “final four” of the Nations League in June 2021 (with the United States winning), the major teams were not very happy with a schedule full of repetitive or redundant games against the weaker teams. The new Nations League format addresses that issue, halving the number of games that the likes of Mexico and the USA might play.
The ongoing 2022-23 Nations League competition will conclude with the remaining group stage matches next month – with the United States facing El Salvador and Grenada and needing at least one point to secure a 2023 Gold Cup spot ensure – and then the final four in June. The new Nations League format will affect subsequent editions of the competition.
Serie A will expand from 12 teams to 16, so there will be no relegation this year. The four 2022-23 Serie B group winners will fill the 2023-24 field. In 2023-24, the bottom 12 teams (Concacaf releases its own national team rankings) will be split into two groups of six teams. They will play four games each in September and October next (it won’t be full robos), after which the last two wins in the two groups will advance to a new home-and-away quarter-final. Here, Concacaf’s top four teams will be waiting, having had the September and October windows free to pursue their own competitive interests. The November quarter-final winners will compete in the final four of the 2023-24 Nations League in March 2024.
Concacaf will use its March 2023 ranking to seed the 2023-24 Serie A groups and quarterfinals. In the latest ranking, released January 1, Mexico was first, followed by the USA, Costa Rica, Canada and Panama. It is unclear whether March’s Nations League games, the last to influence that critical ranking, carry enough weight to change the top four.
From 2023-24, Nations League B will remain at 16 teams and League C will drop from 13 sides to nine.
The performance of Concacaf teams in the League of Nations will affect qualification for the Copa América.
Courtesy of Concacaf
2024 Copa América and 2025 Gold Cup qualifying
The 2023-24 Nations League is particularly important as it will determine the six Concacaf teams that will play in the ’24 Copa América. The four countries that win this November’s home-and-away quarter-final series will qualify. That means, barring an unexpected change in ranking, Mexico, USA, Costa Rica and Canada are just 180 minutes away from guaranteeing a Copa América spot. Each quarter-final will seed in the highest quarter against a League A qualifier.
The four Nations League quarter-finals will then get a second chance at Copa América qualifying in March 2024. They will be paired in two individual qualifiers at a neutral venue. Those two winners will also qualify for the Copa.
The 2024-25 Nations League, the second to be played under the new format, will field teams for the 2025 Gold Cup. There is talk of expanding that Gold Cup, possibly significantly, to include multiple visiting teams as a preparatory event for the 2026 World Cup. Concacaf said on Tuesday that details regarding the ’25 Gold Cup’ qualification will be announced in due course.
With the World Cup expanding to 48 teams, qualification for the 2026 event will take on a new format.
Courtesy of Concacaf
World Cup 2026 qualified
Concacaf, which includes 35 FIFA members, could have eight teams at the North American World Cup. All three hosts are already in. Three more spots are guaranteed, then one or two more can be gained through the playoffs.
In March 2024, the four lowest-ranked Concacaf teams in the November 2023 FIFA rankings will be seeded in a pair of home and away leagues. The two survivors will fill the second round of 30 teams.
There will be six groups of five teams in that second round. Each nation will play the others in their group once – two home and two away – over two-game windows in June 2024 and June 2025. The group winners and runners-up will advance to the third round of 12 teams.
Teams will then be drawn into three groups of four and play a six-game home-and-away round in the fall of 2025. The winners of the three groups will qualify for the World Cup. The two best runners-up will advance to FIFA’s final opportunity, featuring six sides (two from Concacaf and one from South America, Africa, Asia and Oceania) and decide the last two tickets to the World Cup. The intercontinental game is likely to be played at one location in the United States, Mexico or Canada.