CONCACAF reveals revamped World Cup, Copa America qualifying

CONCACAF announced that it has revamped the formats for its senior men's national team competitions to be held between 2023 and 2026. This includes the CONCACAF Nations League, as well as qualifying for the 2024 Copa America and the 2026 World Cup.

"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."

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Starting with the 2023-24 edition of the CONCACAF Nations League, which will begin in September of 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 is being held in the U.S.

The 2023-24 CNL will see the 12 lowest ranked teams in League A take part in a group stage which will be comprised of two groups of six teams each, with each team playing a total of four games (two at home and two 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. Currently this consists of Canada, Costa Rica, Mexico and the United States.

The quarterfinals will be played over two legs with the winners automatically qualifying for the 2024 Copa America, as well as the CNL finals. The four losers will square off in play-in games to determine the two remaining qualifiers for Copa America.

Because of the expansion of League A, the number of teams in League B will remain at 16 while nine will be in League C. League A's expansion also 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. Similarly, 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.

Promotion and relegation between CNL Leagues will fully resume at the conclusion of the third edition, as follows: The fifth and sixth-place finishers (four teams) from League A will be relegated to League B. In League B, the group winners (four teams) will be promoted to League A, and fourth-place finishers will be relegated to League C. In League C the group winners (three teams) and the best second-place finisher will be promoted to League B.

Practically speaking, the change in format for the CNL has the effect of reducing the number of games for the region's top teams from four to two since they are qualifying directly for the quarterfinals without playing the group stage. The 2024-25 edition of the competition will determine qualification for the 2025 Gold Cup.

In terms of qualification for the 2026 World Cup, with Canada, Mexico and the U.S. automatically qualifying as hosts, there will be an additional three spots as well as two intercontinental playoff positions for which CONCACAF teams will vie.

There will be three rounds of qualifying, including a final phase of 12 teams in which there will be three groups of four teams. The three group winners will qualify with the two best second place teams moving on to the intercontinental playoff.