The formats for several Concacaf competitions were revealed on Tuesday, which included new changes to 2026 World Cup Qualifying, the Concacaf Nations League, and more.
Canada, Mexico and the U.S. men’s national team will automatically qualify as hosts for the 2026 FIFA World Cup, the federation announced. There will be an additional three spots for Concacaf nations through a qualifying cycle, as well as two intercontinental playoff positions for which Concacaf teams will fight for.
The World Cup Qualifying cycle will include a final phase of 12 teams, that will be separated into three groups of four teams apiece. The three group winners will automatically qualify for the World Cup, while the two-best second place teams will move on to the intercontinental playoffs.
“These revamped formats and competitions will provide a tremendous platform for our men’s national teams as they prepare to compete on the regional and global stage,” said CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani. “With multiple editions of the Concacaf Nations League and Gold Cup on the horizon, as well as an exciting opportunity to compete with South American teams in an official competition, Concacaf Member Associations have a fantastic opportunity to prepare for the FIFA World Cup 2026, which takes place in our region and will be the biggest World Cup in history.”
Format for 2023-2024 Concacaf Nations League
Changes were also made to the 2023-24 edition of the Concacaf Nations League, which will begin in September 2023. League A will be expanded from 12 to 16 teams, with the competition also serving as the qualifying process for the 2024 Copa America, which will be held in the United States.
The 12 lowest ranked teams in League A will take part in group stage play, which will be constructed of two groups with six teams each. Each team will play a total of four games, with two being at home and two being away. The top two finishers in each group will advance to the quarterfinal stage, where they will be joined by the four highest ranked teams in League A, based on the March 2023 FIFA rankings (USMNT, Canada, Costa Rica, and Mexico currently occupy the top four places).
The quarterfinals will be played over two legs with the winners automatically qualifying for the 2024 Copa America, as well as the Nations League finals. The four losers will square off in play-in games to determine the two remaining qualifiers for Copa America.
Due to the expansion of League A, the number of teams in League B will remain at 16 nations, while League C will have nine national teams. League A’s expansion means there will be promotion but no relegation heading into the 2023-24 CNL. The League B group winners from the current tournament will be promoted to League A for the 2023-2024 edition while the League C group winners will be promoted to League B.
For 2023-24, League B will be comprised of four groups of four, with each team playing six matches, three at home and three away. League C will be made up of three groups of three, making for a total of four matches, two at home and two away.
The 2024-25 edition of the Nations League will determine qualification for the 2025 Concacaf Gold Cup, which will take place that summer.