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ESPN FC  By ESPN

2022 World Cup: How qualifying works around the world

Qualifying for the 2022 World Cup began on June 6, 2019, when minor nations from the Asian confederation played their first round of matches. Mongolia's Norjmoogiin Tsedenbal scored the very first goal in qualifying in a 2-0 win over Brunei Darussalam.

For the 2018 World Cup, FIFA held a gala for the preliminary round draw of all confederations. However, this will not happen for the 2022 tournament. 

A FIFA spoksperson told ESPN: "Given the fact that the FIFA World Cup 2022 will take place in November-December and that each confederation plans a different timeline for their qualifiers to the tournament, it has been agreed that a preliminary draw will be held separately for each one of them.

"Discussions involving the other confederations and the draws for their preliminary competitions are currently ongoing. Further details will follow in due course."

FIFA has abandoned plans to expand the 2022 World Cup to 48 teams, and will continue with a 32-team competition. 

EUROPE (UEFA; 13 PLACES)

• European qualifying home page

Qualifying is not expected to begin until early 2021, with the next edition of the UEFA Nations League scheduled for September to November in 2020.

There will be 55 European nations to go through qualifying, who will be split into groups. Group winners will go direct to the finals and it is likely there will be a playoff system for the remaining spots, either using group runners-up or Nations League positions.  

The UEFA Executive Committee is expected to confirm the format at its meeting on Sept. 24, 2019.

SOUTH AMERICA (CONMEBOL 4.5 PLACES)

• South American qualifying home page

As in recent qualifying competitions, all 10 nations play each other home and away. The top four nations qualify directly to the finals. The fifth-place team will go into an intercontinental playoff (draw to be determined).

Qualifying begins in March 2020 but as yet no fixtures have been confirmed.

NORTH AMERICA, CENTRAL AMERICA, CARIBBEAN (CONCACAF; 3.5 PLACES)

• CONCACAF qualifying home page

CONCACAF has 35 FIFA-affiliated nations, most of them very minor in world football. 

A revamped qualification process has been confirmed for the 2022 edition, which will begin in September 2020 and run to September 2021. 

The top six teams in the FIFA World Ranking after the June 2020 international window will automatically form the home-and-away Hexagonal, which is the final round of qualifying. In previous qualifying tournaments, these six nations would also need to go through the initial multi-group phase. It means that United States, Mexico and Costa Rica are effectively guaranteed a place in the Hexagonal -- but the chances of any of these teams not making it through earlier qualifying rounds would be extremely slim anyway.

The top three nations in the Hexagonal will automatically qualify for the World Cup.

The 29 nations that aren't in the Hexagonal will be involved in a separate tournament. Those teams will be drawn into eight groups, with the winners advancing to a knockout phase. The country that wins the knockout phase will play against the fourth-placed finisher in the Hexagonal. The winner of that game will then face an intercontinental playoff to reach the finals.

AFRICA (CAF; 5 PLACES)

• African qualifying home page

The qualifying process has now been confirmed, with a modified format to the 2018 edition. 

There are 54 FIFA-affiliated nations.

Round One: The 28 lowest ranked nations play two-legged ties. The ties will be played in September 2019, with the full fixture list available here.
Round Two: The 14 winners from the first round will be joined by the other 26 African nations. Those 40 teams will be split into 10 groups of four teams, with the group winners advancing to the final round. This round will be played March 2020 to October 2021. 
Round Three: The 10 group winners will be drawn into head-to-head, two-legged ties for one of the five places at the World Cup. Fixtures to be played in November 2021.

ASIA (AFC; 4.5 PLACES)

• Asia qualifying home page

The first two rounds of qualifying are exactly the same as four years ago.

Round One: The 12 lowest ranked nations played two-legged ties in June 2019. Guam, Macau, Mongolia, Timor-Leste, Bangladesh and Cambodia advanced. 
Round Two: The six winners from the first round join the other 34 Asian nations, drawn into eight groups of five teams -- also played as qualifiers for the 2023 Asian Cup finals (for this reason World Cup hosts Qatar will take part).

The eight group winners and the four best group runners-up go through. If Qatar win their group, seven group winners and five best group runners-up progress. 

Latest results can be seen here: 

Group A: China, Syria, Philippines, Maldives, Guam
Group B: Australia, Jordan, Chinese Taipei, Kuwait, Nepal
Group C: Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, Hong Kong, Cambodia
Group D: Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, Palestine, Yemen, Singapore
Group E: Bangladesh, Oman, India, Afghanistan, Qatar
Group F: Japan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Myanmar, Mongolia
Group G: United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia
Group H: South Korea, Lebanon, North Korea, Turkmenistan, Sri Lanka

Round Three (final group round): The remaining 12 nations will be drawn into two groups of six teams. Group winners and runners-up qualified for the World Cup.
Round Four: The teams finishing third in round three played a two-legged playoff. The winners then advanced to an inter-confederation playoff.

OCEANIA (OFC; 0.5 PLACES)

• Oceania qualifying home page

At present there is no information about Oceania qualifying, but four years ago the OFC Nations Cup doubled as World Cup qualifying. The next Nations Cup is scheduled to take place in May or June of 2020 and all 11 FIFA-affiliated national teams are due to take part. 

INTERCONTINENTAL PLAYOFFS (2 PLACES)

This will feature one team each from Asia, CONCACAF, Oceania and South America. A draw will determine the two-legged ties. 

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