This Ad is not available for you.

FIFA World Cup 2022 qualification process: All you need to know

This Ad is not available for you.

The FIFA World Cup will begin on November 21, 2022, with 209 teams fighting to secure 31 of 32 qualifying spots in the World Cup finals via the World Cup qualifiers. Qatar, the host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, have secured automatic qualification.

The FIFA World Cup qualification process began on June 6, 2019, for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The six FIFA confederations -  AFC (Asia), CAF (Africa), CONCACAF (North and Central America and the Caribbean), CONMEBOL (South America), OFC (Oceania), and UEFA (Europe) - organize parallel tournaments to offer teams the chance to compete for qualification at the FIFA World Cup finals over a three-year cycle.

The latest round of World Cup qualifiers will commence from November 11, 2021. Here we delve into the functioning, history, and qualification process for teams to enter the FIFA World Cup.

How many teams can qualify for the FIFA World Cup?

Since 1998, 32 teams can qualify for the FIFA World Cup finals at the end of a two-year-long qualification process involving the 211 men's national football teams affiliated to FIFA.

The qualification process for the FIFA World Cup began with the 1934 FIFA World Cup in Italy, when the limit of participants was raised from 13 in the inaugural edition in 1930 to 16.

The 16-team qualification process continued from 1934 to 1978. The limit was later revised to 24 between 1982 and 1994, and finally to 32 from 1998. In January 2017, the FIFA Council agreed to expand the FIFA World Cup to 48 teams, starting with the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

Since the 1938 FIFA World Cup, the host nations have received automatic qualification to the final tournament.

Summary of qualification scenarios for the six FIFA confederations

Confederations Allotted slots for World Cup Finals Starting teams
AFC* 4.5 46
CAF 5 54
CONCACAF* 3.5 35
CONMEBOL* 4.5 10
OFC* 0.5 11
UEFA 13 55

*Confederations to have one team qualifying for the intercontinental play-offs

What is the format for the FIFA World Cup qualification process?

The qualification process for the FIFA World Cup is held either in a league (home and away round-robin fixtures) or a knockout format (home and away two-legged fixtures).

In case there is a tie between two or more teams,

  1. League: The Fair Play points system will be reviewed, where teams will be judged based on discipline (yellow/red card).
  2. Knockouts: The tie goes into extra time if the aggregate score over two legs is the same. Should there be no goals even after extra time, the contest goes into a penalty shoot-out.

Each confederation has a different format for its qualification process, which will have multiple rounds to limit the final participants to the permitted count available to them.

How many teams qualify for the World Cup from Europe?

Thirteen teams from UEFA's 55 FIFA-affiliated members can qualify for the World Cup finals. The European qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup is a one-year affair that started in March 2021 and will conclude in March 2022.

The European World Cup qualifiers is divided into two parts:

  1. Group Stage: Teams are split into ten groups of five or six. The 10 group winners qualify for the World Cup. There are 10 matchdays for the round-robin qualifying process.
  2. Play-offs: Twelve teams (10 runners-up from the group stage plus two group winners that didn’t qualify for the 2020-21 UEFA Nations League finals) will be drawn into three play-off paths for a one-off semi-final and final. The three path winners qualify for the World Cup along with the 10 aforementioned group winners that had already qualified.

How many teams qualify for the World Cup from Africa?

Five teams from CAF's 54 FIFA-affiliated members can qualify for the World Cup finals. The African qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup started in September 2019 and will conclude in March 2022.

Three rounds will be played in the African World Cup qualifiers:

  1. Round One: Teams ranked 27 and below would be drawn to play two-legged ties, with 14 winners advancing to the second round.
  2. Round Two: 40 teams (14 winners from round one and teams ranked between 1-26) will be split into 10 groups of four teams. The group winners will move into the final round.
  3. Round Three: The 10 group winners will be drawn into five two-legged ties. These fixtures are slated for March 2022 and the final five teams will secure qualification for the FIFA World Cup.

How many teams qualify for the World Cup from Asia?

4.5 teams (four teams and one qualifier from the intercontinental play-off) from AFC's 46 FIFA-affiliated members can qualify for the World Cup finals. The AFC qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup began in June 2019 and will conclude in June 2022.

Two of the four rounds of the Asian World Cup qualifiers would be joint qualifiers for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup:

  1. Round One: 12 teams - ranked between 35 and 46 - would be drawn to play two-legged ties, with six winners advancing to the second round.
  2. Round Two: 40 teams (six winners from round one and teams ranked between 1-34) will be split into eight groups of five teams to play home-and-away round-robin matches. The group winners and four best group runners-up will move into the third round of the World Cup and the next round of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup.[For the 2022 FIFA World Cup, since hosts Qatar won their group, the fifth-best runners-up took their place in the third round].
  3. Round Three: 12 teams from the second round will enter the third round and be divided into two groups of six teams to play home-and-away round-robin matches. The top two teams will qualify for the World Cup, while the third-placed teams will advance to the fourth round.
  4. Round Four: The teams finishing third in round three will take part in a two-legged play-off, with the winners then advancing to the intercontinental play-offs.

How many teams qualify for the World Cup from CONCACAF?

3.5 teams (three teams and one qualifier from the intercontinental play-off) from CONCACAF's 35 FIFA-affiliated members can qualify for the World Cup finals. The CONCACAF qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup began in March 2021 and will conclude in June 2022.

Three rounds will be played in the CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers:

  1. Round One: As per the FIFA rankings in July 2020, the teams ranked 6 to 35 were drawn into six groups of five and would play single round-robin matches (two home and two away), with group winners advancing for the second round.
  2. Round Two: The six group winners from the first round will play in a two-legged home-and-away series. Three winners qualify for the final round.
  3. Round Three: The round two winners (three teams) will join the top five CONCACAF nations based on the July 2020 FIFA rankings. They will play home-and-away round-robin matches in a single group, with the final top three qualifying for the World Cup. The fourth-placed team moves into the intercontinental play-offs.

How many teams qualify for the World Cup from CONMEBOL?

4.5 teams (four teams and one qualifier from the intercontinental play-off) from CONMEBOL's 10 FIFA-affiliated members can qualify for the World Cup finals. The CONMEBOL qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup began in October 2020 and will conclude in March 2022.

The 10 CONMEBOL teams will play in a league of home-and-away round-robin matches. At the end of the qualifiers - 18 matchdays - the top four nations will qualify directly for the World Cup finals, while the fifth-place team would go into the intercontinental play-offs.

How many teams qualify for the World Cup from Oceania?

0.5 teams (one intercontinental play-off winner) from OFC's 11 FIFA-affiliated members can qualify for the World Cup finals.

The OFC World Cup qualifier dates are tentatively set for January 2022, while the intercontinental play-offs are slated for March 2022.

There will be two rounds of OFC qualifiers:

  1. Round One: The 11 teams will be split into two groups based on their FIFA World Ranking and play round-robin games. The top two nations from each group will then progress to the second round.
  2. Round Two: The four teams will play two-legged knockout matches (semi-final and final) at home and away venues to book a place in the intercontinental play-off.

How many teams qualify for the intercontinental play-offs?

One team from four confederations - AFC (Asia), CONCACAF (North and Central America and the Caribbean), CONMEBOL (South America) and OFC (Oceania) will be paired by an open draw to play two intercontinental play-offs.

In each tie, the two teams will play in a two-legged home-and-away series. The two winners, who are decided on aggregate score or penalty shoot-out, qualify for the FIFA World Cup.

Author: William Paul

Images: AFP / KURT SCHORRER

This Ad is not available for you.