CONCACAF divides nations in six groups for next round of World Cup qualifying

CONCACAF divides nations in six groups for next round of World Cup qualifying

Published Jan. 25, 2024 3:32 p.m. ET

World Cup qualifying in North and Central America and the Caribbean took shape Thursday with the draw for a 30-nation second round that will narrow the field to 12 finalists for three automatic berths to join the United States, Mexico and Canada in the 2026 tournament.

The region's three largest nations received automatic slots as co-hosts of the expanded 48-nation, 104-game tournament.

Under the format announced last February, CONCACAF's lowest-ranked teams play home-and-home series this March to reach the second round, with Anguilla facing the Turks and Caicos Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands meeting the British Virgin Islands.

The draw determined:


Group A: Antigua and Barbuda, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Honduras

Group B: Bahamas, Costa Rica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, Trinidad

Group C: Aruba, Barbados, Curaçao, Haiti, St. Lucia

Group D: Belize, Guyana, Montserrat, Nicaragua, Panama

Group E: Dominica, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Jamaica, British Virgin Islands-U.S. Virgin Islands winner

Group F: El Salvador, Puerto Rico, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Turks and Caicos Islands-Anguilla winner

Each nation will play four matches that will be scheduled for June 2024 and June 2025. The top two nations in each group advance, and the 12 teams will be drawn into three groups of four. Each of those countries will play six games from September through November in 2025, and the three group winners qualify.

The top two third-place team advance to intercontinental playoffs that include one nation each from South America, Africa, Asia and Oceania, The four lowest-ranked teams will be drawn into a pair of single-elimination matches and the winners advance to single-elimination games against the teams with byes. The winners of those two games reach the 2026 tournament.

Prior to the 1994 World Cup in the U.S., FIFA held an attention-grabbing qualifying draw involving 141 nations at New York's Madison Square Garden on a Sunday in December 1991. FIFA has split up draws by confederation for the 2026 World Cup and held Thursday afternoon's CONCACAF sorting at its office in Zurich.

Reporting by The Associated Press. 


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