Ruin Or Redemption? How We Think Concacaf World Cup Qualifying Will Go For Each Nation

Can the USMNT get back to the World Cup? Will Mexico win the qualifying group? Here are our Concacaf World Cup qualifying predictions.

Nearly four years after ignominiously bowing out of 2018 World Cup qualifying, the USMNT is ready to begin qualifying for the 2022 World Cup. The last four years have felt like a lifetime on and off the pitch in the U.S., but Sept. 2 marks the start of an opportunity to rewrite the script, a chance to cast off the miserable low of 2017 and show the country how much the team has improved.

Or not — we’ll see. 

Concacaf World Cup qualifying finally kicks off on Sept. 2. After changing how teams qualify for the 2022 World Cup a few times over the last four years, Concacaf has finally settled on an eight-team, round-robin group stage to determine the three automatic qualifiers, plus a fourth team that will go to an intercontinental playoff. 

How it will all shake out is anyone’s guess, but we at The18 are not shy about making predictions, even in the wacky world of Concacaf, where anything can — and usually does — happen. So we’ve ranked how we think the Concacaf World Cup qualifying table will shake out over the next seven months. 

Here’s how our poll of The18 staffers predicts the table will look in March at the end of Concacaf World Cup qualifying.

The18’s Concacaf World Cup Qualifying Predictions

Rank Team (Average Position)

1. United States (1.3)
2. Mexico (1.7)
3. Canada (3.3)
4. Jamaica (4.1)
5. Costa Rica (5.5)
6. Honduras (5.8)
7. El Salvador (6.2)
8. Panama (7.9)

The U.S. and Mexico are always favorites, but the last two World Cup cycles showed their spots on the biggest stage aren’t always guaranteed. In 2013, Mexico needed Graham Zusi’s stoppage-time equalizer against Panama to qualify for Brazil 2014. In 2017, well, we all remember what happened to the USMNT against Trinidad and Tobago. 

Still, not a single one of us picked Mexico or the U.S. to finish outside of the top two, let alone fail to qualify for the World Cup. Five of us picked the USMNT to finish first in the group thanks in part to two impressive victories over Mexico this summer, while two picked El Tri to finish top of the table. 

After the top two, Canada was the favorite to finish third, edging out Jamaica for the final automatic qualifying spot. Both the Canucks and Reggae Boyz have a lot of talent, and it will be interesting to see how they both fare in a rugged qualifying campaign, seeing as neither have made it to a World Cup in quite some time. Jamaica’s only World Cup appearance came in 1998 while Canada’s only showing was back in 1986.

Coming in fifth in our predictions is Costa Rica, which has been to four of the last five World Cups, including a run to the quarterfinals in 2014. Los Ticos are still relying on a lot of those same players from the 2014 run, and our staff doesn’t seem to think they’ll have what it takes to get to Qatar.

The predictions finish with Honduras, El Salvador and Panama, three Central American nations who are always in the running and have six World Cups between them. I don’t think any of us would be shocked if one of them went off and reached the third or fourth spot, but none have the quality to suggest they’ll for sure be in Qatar next year. 

The eight-team group for Concacaf World Cup qualifying will, at the very least, be exciting to watch, and it sure beats the previous format. Before Covid-19 threw a huge wrench into the plans, Concacaf had decided to use a six-team hexagonal, as has been used in previous qualifying campaigns. The next 29 Concacaf teams would then fight for one single spot to face off against the fourth-place team from the hex to have a chance at the intercontinental playoff. It was a weird scheme seemingly set up to help the U.S. and Mexico qualify more easily.

The new format looks much fairer, and gives Canada, which has really improved in the last few years, an actual chance to qualify on its own merits instead of a couple of one-off playoffs as it would have been left out of the hex. Depth will be vital for all the teams, with Concacaf squeezing three matches into four of the five international breaks during qualifying to accommodate 14 games in six months. 

Some of the biggest matches to watch will be Mexico-Jamaica at an empty Azteca on Sept. 2, USA-Canada in Nashville on Sept. 5 and the Mexico-USA games on Nov. 12 in Cincinnati and March 24 in Mexico. 

No one knows how the qualifiers will shake out in the end, but the next months should be mightily interesting.

Here are the Concacaf World Cup qualifying predictions from each of our participating staffers.

The18’s Individual Concacaf World Cup Qualifying Predictions

Travis Yoesting

1. USA
2. Mexico
3. Canada
4. Jamaica
5. Costa Rica
6. El Salvador
7. Panama
8. Honduras

Connor Fleming

1. USA
2. Mexico
3. Canada
4. Jamaica
5. El Salvador
6. Costa Rica
7. Honduras
8. Panama

David Moore

1. USA
2. Mexico
3. Honduras
4. Canada
5. Jamaica
6. Costa Rica
7. El Salvador 
8. Panama

Luis Vidal

1. Mexico
2. USA
3. Canada
4. Costa Rica
5. Jamaica
6. Honduras
7. El Salvador 
8. Panama

Colby Conetta

1. USA 
2. Mexico 
3. Canada 
4. Jamaica 
5. Costa Rica
6. El Salvador 
7. Honduras 
8. Panama

Grant Conybear

1. USA
2. Mexico
3. Canada
4. Jamaica
5. Honduras
6. El Salvador
7. Costa Rica
8. Panama

Felix Delgado

1. Mexico
2. USA
3. Jamaica
4. Canada
5. Honduras
6. Costa Rica
7. El Salvador
8. Panama

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