7 Days, 12 Can't-Miss World Cup Qualifiers: Your Complete Guide To The Madness

The USMNT takes center stage, but there's plenty more going on around the world.

The final major international window before the World Cup begins Monday and lasts through early next week with crucial matches being contested across UEFA, CONMEBOL, Concacaf, CAF, AFC and OFC. We'll know 29 of the 32 competing nations in Qatar after this period, with only the inter-confederation playoffs (two spots) and a delayed European playoff final (one spot) to go. 

But the current list of qualified nations only stands at 15, so we're going to see some incredibly dramatic international football over a seven-day window, including three USMNT matches to decide the fate Gregg Berhalter's side. 

Strap in, the World Cup starts now.  

What Teams Will Qualify For World Cup 2022? 12 Matches That Will Decide It All 

Thursday, March 24

Australia vs. Japan 
Location: Accor Stadium | Sydney, Australia
Time: 5:10 a.m. ET | TV: ESPN Deportes, ESPN Deportes+ 

As things stand, Australia's path to the World Cup is a single-elimination playoff against the United Arab Emirates followed by a single-elimination playoff against Peru. 

The Socceroos would rather avoid all that by moving into the top two spots of Group B in AFC qualifying, and they control their own destiny with the final two matches coming against second-place Japan and first-place Saudi Arabia. Expect a great atmosphere at the 80,000-seat stadium in Sydney.   

Portugal vs. Turkey 
Location: Estádio do Dragão | Porto, Portugal
Time: 3:45 p.m. ET | TV: ESPN2, TUDN USA, UniMás

The world awaits the potential playoff final between Portugal and Italy, but both teams need to win semifinals to make that happen. Italy losing to North Macedonia in Palermo is unthinkable, but Turkey is a difficult assignment for Os Navegadores.

Portugal has star power in every position, but Turkey, ranked 39th in the world, offers some threat of its own through Inter Milan playmaker Hakan Çalhanoğlu and Marseille winger Cengiz Ünder. 

Brazil vs. Chile
Location:
Maracanã | Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET | TV: FuboTV 

Fourth-place Uruguay and fifth-place Peru kick off at the same time in Montevideo (you could easily opt to watch that match instead), but here we have sixth-place Chile needing a win at the Maracanã to keep its World Cup dream alive. The Seleção won't be accommodating opponents for La Roja

Brazil has already qualified, but that hasn't stopped Tite from calling in a hugely experienced squad with three players over 100 caps: Thiago Silva, Neymar and Dani Alves. Chile has six of its own: Alexis Sánchez, Gary Medel, Claudio Bravo, Mauricio Isla, Arturo Vidal and Eduardo Vargas. It's a battle of the old heads.

Mexico vs. USMNT
Location:
Estadio Azteca | Mexico City, Mexico 
Time: 10 p.m. ET | TV: CBS Sports Network, TUDN USA, Univision USA

Second-place USA and third-place Mexico (level on 21 points) would be happy to finish in these automatically qualifying spots with Canada four points clear in first, but fourth-place Panama is expected to beat Honduras and move to 20 points earlier in the day. 

The specter of Panama adds some spice to a match that's never lacking in it. The winner of this one, with two matches to go, gets to exhale and consider its ticket punched. The loser gets thrown into the fiery hell of two insanely high-pressure games. 

There's also a very interesting match between Canada and Costa Rica kicking off in San José at the same time. 

Friday, March 25

Cameroon vs. Algeria (First leg)
Location:
Stade Omnisport | Douala, Cameroon
Time: 1 p.m. ET | TV: ESPN+ 

Riyad Mahrez led Algeria to the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations title and the Fennec Foxes enjoyed a global ranking of 29th. However, a disastrous 2021 tournament that ended in the group stage with no wins and only one goal scored sees the nation nervously approach this playoff against Cameroon.

Cameroon hosted AFCON and exceeded expectations by finishing third, but the Indomitable Lions will need more magic from Vincent Aboubakar and Karl Toko Ekambi to pull off this upset.   

Egypt vs. Senegal (First leg)
Location:
Cairo International Stadium | Cairo, Egypt 
Time: 3:30 p.m. ET | TV: ESPN+

The other massive CAF playoff between Ghana and Nigeria kicks off at the same time, but who can resist a rematch of the recent AFCON final between Mohamed Salah's Egypt and Sadio Mané's Senegal?

That final was won by Senegal in a penalty shootout, and that's really how much there is between these two nations. It's unfortunate that two of the continent's best teams have been drawn against each other in the playoffs, but this is going to be an early taste of the World Cup in terms of both atmosphere and quality. 

Saturday, March 26

No competitive internationals — you can watch a friendly between Ireland and Belgium at the Aviva in Dublin at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN+ if you'd like. 

Sunday, March 27

Canada vs. Jamaica
Location:
BMO Field | Toronto, Canada
Time: 5:05 p.m. ET | TV: Paramount+

Tune in to watch Canada celebrate its first World Cup finals appearance since 1986. This should be a party. 

USMNT vs. Panama
Location:
Exploria Stadium | Orlando, USA 
Time: 7 p.m. ET | TV: FS1, TUDN USA, UniMás  

The big one. The one that gets us in. The one we should all be feeling pretty relaxed about except that night in Couva, Trinidad, will never allow us to relax again. I'm nervous thinking about it.  

Monday, March 28

No competitive internationals. 

Tuesday, March 29

Senegal vs. Egypt (Second leg) 
Location: Diamniadio Olympic Stadium | Dakar, Senegal
Time: 1 p.m. ET | TV: ESPN+

The second leg between Mané and Salah at the recently opened Olympic Stadium in Dakar. This will be epic.

Kickoff for the second leg between Algeria and Cameroon is at 3:30 p.m. ET, so you can watch the end of that one after tuning in for...

Italy/North Macedonia vs. Portugal/Turkey 

Location: TBD 
Time: 2:45 p.m. ET | TV: ESPN+ 

We're expecting to see Italy vs. Portugal here, and that match would take place at the Estádio do Dragão in Porto. It's a World Cup quarterfinal masquerading as a playoff.

Kicking off at the same time will be Robert Lewandowski's Poland against the winner of Zlatan Ibrahimovic's Sweden vs. Czech Republic. That final will be at Stadion Śląski in Chorzów, Poland. 

Chile vs. Uruguay
Location:
Estadio San Carlos de Apoquindo | Las Condes, Chile
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET | TV: FuboTV

We'll see where things stand after Chile vs. Brazil and Uruguay vs. Peru, but this figures to be a pivotal matchup in Santiago.  

Wednesday, March 30

USMNT vs. Costa Rica
Location:
Estadio Nacional | San José, Costa Rica
Time: 9:05 p.m. ET | TV: Paramount+, UNIVERSO 

Before simultaneous kickoffs across the Octagonal on Wednesday's final matchday, we'll have learned which OFC nation (likely New Zealand) faces Concacaf's fourth-place finisher in the inter-confederation playoffs on June 13 or 14. 

Let's hope the U.S. travels to the Estadio Nacional in San José having already clinched automatic qualification, but you never know.