2018 World Cup Qualifying: How They Get There

Mexico NT

Mexico ready for World Cup

As the 2018 cycle really gets going, it is fun to realize just how different each federation is with their qualifying system. CONCACAF has a whittling system until the always-tough Hex. CONMEBOL has a round robin format for every single team in the federation. Oceania plays just for the chance to play in a intercontinental playoff. Each federation has their own style, but the end result will be 32 teams punching their ticket to the final tournament in Russia. For the 123 nations that can still qualify, qualification can mean everything to their country.

Europe already gets plenty of attention with their qualifying, while also claiming the most spots in the tournament. So we’re going to take a look at some of the other regions and see how their qualifying competition is going.

CONCACAF – 3.5 spots

The region is gearing up for its 4th round of qualifying. There are 12 team remaining in the competition. The 6 highest ranked nations from the region got a bye to this round, including Mexico and the United States. For others, they had to progress through 3 rounds of home and away playoffs to progress through each round. The 12 remaining teams are in 3 groups of 4 teams. The top two from each group will advance the Hex, which is the final round.

Group A is Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, and Canada. Group B is Costa Rica, Panama, Haiti, and Jamaica. Group C is the United States, Trinidad and Tobago, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Guatemala. Group C looks is the weakest overall according to the FIFA rankings, while both Groups A and B are both seemingly pretty tough. The final match day for this round will be September 6th, 2016.

OFC – 0.5 spots

The smallest region in qualification spots is moving into its second round of qualifying. The second round is two groups of four teams. The top 3 in each group will advance to the next round, while the top 2 also get a spot in the Nations Cup knockout stage. The next round will not begin until May 2016, so there is plenty of time to prepare. Teams remaining are New Zealand, Solomon Islands, Fiji, Vanuatu, Tahiti, New Caledonia, Samoa, and Papua New Guinea.

CONMEBOL – 4.5 World Cup spots

South America has the least amount of teams of any region, which allows them to use the fairest system. Every team in the region will play a home and away match against each of the other teams, giving each team 18 matches to get enough points to advance. The region has 4 qualification spots, and an extra slot for an intercontinental playoff.

The 10 countries have not gone along with the script in the first 4 games, as Ecuador is the only country with the full 12 points. Uruguay is in second with 9, but then Brazil, Paraguay, and Chile are all tied with 7 points apiece. Argentina have struggled without Lionel Messi, with only 5 points from 4 matches. Colombia sit a point behind them, while Bolivia and Peru each have 3 points to show. Venezuela is in last place with four losses and 0 points. Almost a fourth of the way through of their qualification, South America has plenty of drama already, and will continue through matchday 18 at October 10th, 2017.

AFC – 4.5 spots

The Asian region might have the most confusing and interesting qualification process. They are currently in the second round, where the remaining 40 teams were divided into 8 groups of 5 nations. The top team in each group would progress to the third round, followed by the top 4 group runner ups. Soon after this round began though, Indonesia was disqualified from the process, after completing two matches. This threw the runner-up process into disarray, considering Group F only has 4 remaining teams. FIFA decided to use the UEFA style of disregarding points garnered against the last place teams to level the playing field for the runner ups.

So far, one group has already sealed their place in the third round, with Qatar already clinching Group C. Because of the uneven groups, some teams have played more matches than others, giving some misleading standings. That said, most of the heavyweights in the region like Japan and Australia are in great positions to win their groups, as are most of the favored teams. Two matchdays remain, finishing at the end of March 2016. The next round will begin in September 2016 following a draw at the conclusion of the second round.

CAF – 5 spots

The African region recently finished their second round of qualifying. 40 nations were paired in a draw, playing a home and away leg with the winner advancing to the 3rd round. The remaining 20 teams will be drawn into 5 groups of four teams. The group winners will book their place in the 2018 World Cup, which is pretty cut and dry, without an intercontinental playoff. Timing of the draw and third round matches has not been set yet.


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About the author: Dominic Habjan


I am a contributor to SoccerPro’s blogs, and truly enjoy writing about the World’s Game. I support Sporting KC, US National Team, and Slovenian National Team. I follow the Premier League but don’t necessarily have a favorite club. I am an avid sports fan, but prefer college to professional leagues in every sport with exception to soccer. I love the Mizzou Tigers, KC Royals, and KC Chiefs. Outside sports I enjoy movies, music, and musical theatre.

Website: https://www.soccerpro.com


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