THE Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) recently held in Miami the draw for the initial phases of the CONCACAF Preliminary Competition for the FIFA World Cup in Russia 2018.
The event was held, with the assistance of World Cup veterans from the region including Trinidad and Tobago’s ShakaHislop, Mexico’s PavelPardo, Carlos Pavon from Honduras, and Tony Sanneh of the United States, as well as Brazilian all-time great Ronaldo.
The draw involved 27 of the 35 CONCACAF Member Associations seeking to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, and determined the match-ups for the first two rounds of the five-round regional qualifying tournament in CONCACAF, which begins in March and runs through 2017.
Round one, which will be played in two legs on dates from March 23 – 31 of this year, features seven home-and-away series, among the CONCACAF Member Associations ranked 22 – 35 in the region in the FIFA rankings from August 2014 – the first ranking after the completion of the 2014 World Cup and thus the first of the 2018 World Cup cycle.
The Round One series will be disputed between the following nations, with the team set to host the initial leg listed first – Match 1: Bahamas against Bermuda; Match 2: British Virgin Islands versus Dominica; Match 3: Barbados plays U.S. Virgin Islands, Match 4: Turks and Caicos Islands vs. St. Kitts and Nevis; Match 5: Nicaragua against Anguilla; Match 6: Belize vs Cayman Islands; Match 7: Curacao plays Montserrat.
Round Two will be played from June 8 – 16, and features the seven winners from Round One plus thirteen additional national teams, which were drawn into the following ten pairings – Match 8: St. Vincent and the Grenadines vs. Guyana; Match 9: Antigua and Barbuda vs St. Lucia; Match 10: Puerto Rico vs Grenada, Match 11: Canada vs Winner Match No. 2, Match 12: Dominican Republic vs Winner Match No. 6; Match 13: Guatemala vs Winner Match No. 1; Match 14: Aruba vs Winner Match No. 3; Match 15: Winner Match No. 4 vs El Salvador; Match 16: Winner Match No.7 vs Cuba; Match 17: Winner Match No. 5 vs Suriname.
Round Three will follow from August 31-September 8, of this year, and consists of another series of home-and-away match-ups featuring the ten Round Two series winners, joined by the two Member Associations ranked 7 and 8, Jamaica and Haiti.
The final six CONCACAF Member Associations (Costa Rica, Mexico, United States, Honduras, Panama, and Trinidad & Tobago – in order of rank) will join the competition for Round Four, which consists of three groups of four teams and is scheduled to be played in a round-robin format between November 2015 and September 2016.
Round Five, which will qualify three CONCACAF nations directly to the FIFA World Cup and provide a further intercontinental playoff spot for the fourth-placed team, will be played in the traditional six-team, hexagonal format among the top two teams from each Round Four group. This final round of World Cup qualifying in CONCACAF is scheduled to be disputed from November 2016 to October 2017.
The match-ups for Round Three, as well as seeds for Round Four, of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying will be determined at the FIFA World Cup Qualifying Draw in St. Petersburg, Russia, on July 25, 2015.