March 1 – Concacaf is expanding the top tier of its Nations League to 16 teams and has unveiled new competition formats and qualification routes for the 2023-26 cycle of men’s national team competitions, taking them up to the 2026 World Cup to be hosted in the region.
At the centre of everything is the Concacaf Nations League which will be the hub around which qualifying for the 2024 CONMEBOL Copa America next year. Six teams will qualify from the 2023/24 CNL, while the 2024/25 CNL will qualify teams to the 2025 Gold Cup.
Also new for 2023/24 will be more direct elimination matches that will qualify teams to continental summer competitions.
Concacaf is currently completing its 2022/23 CNL with the four League A winners advancing to the Finals (to be played in June 2023) and the 24 teams that will qualify for the 2023 Concacaf Gold Cup Prelims and Group Stage (to be played between June 16 – July 16, 2023).
Concacaf’s 41 member nations will still play in the CNL in a three-League format (A, B, and C), but the composition of the leagues will change.
League A has been expanded to include 16 teams (up from 12), and a new quarterfinal round has been created. For Group Stage play, the 12 lowest ranked League A national teams (based on the Concacaf Rankings as of March 2023) will be split into two groups of six teams each and will play in a ‘Swiss style’ league system, with each team playing a total of four games (two at home and two away).
After Group Stage play, each group’s first and second-place finishers (four teams in total) will advance to the CNL quarterfinals, where they will join the four top-ranked League A national teams (based on the Concacaf Rankings as of March 2023).
The Quarterfinal round will be played in a home-and-away format, with the aggregate score winners in each Quarterfinal matchup advancing to the CNL Finals. Specifically for the 2023/24 CNL, the Quarterfinal winners will qualify for the 2024 CONMEBOL Copa America.
The League B format remains unchanged with 16 teams divided into four groups of four teams. Each team will play every other team in their group, home-and-away, for a total of six matches per team (three at home and three away).
League C will have nine teams divided into three groups of three teams. Each team will play every team in their group, home-and-away, for a total of four matches per team (two at home and two away).
Promotion and relegation between CNL Leagues will fully resume at the end of the third edition of the CNL.
- League A: Fifth and sixth-place finishers (four teams) will be relegated to League B.
- League B: Group winners (four teams) will be promoted to League A, and fourth-place finishers will be relegated to League C.
- League C: Group winners (three teams) and the best second-place finisher will be promoted to League B.
Concacaf president Victor Montagliani said: “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. 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.”
With the 2026 World Cup being co-hosted by the US, Canada and Mexico, Concacaf has three automatic qualifiers. With the event expanded to 48 teams, Concacaf has been granted a further three direct qualification berths and two Intercontinental Playoff spots.
The Concacaf Qualifiers for 2026 will not include the host nations but will include the confederation’s other 32 FIFA members.
Qualification will start with four lowest ranked nations playing off. The Second Round will be played between the two winners from the First Round and the Confederation’s remaining 28 FIFA member associations in six groups of five teams.
The group winners and runners-up (12 teams) will progress to the Final Round of three groups of four teams, with each team playing six matches (three at home and three away).
The three group winners will qualify directly to the 2026 World Cup, while the two best second place finishers will qualify to the FIFA World Cup 2026 Intercontinental Playoff.
“Alongside the significant enhancements we have made to our club, women’s national team, and youth competitions, this is truly football first and I want to thank and congratulate our 41 Member Associations for their support as we continue to transform the game in Concacaf,” said Montagliani.
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