Qualifying for the 2022 World Cup begins on June 6, 2019, when minor nations from the Asian confederation play their first round of matches.
For the 2018 World Cup, FIFA held a gala for the preliminary round draw of all confederations. However, this will not happen for the 2022 tournament.
A FIFA spoksperson told ESPN: “Given the fact that the FIFA World Cup 2022 will take place in November-December and that each confederation plans a different timeline for their qualifiers to the tournament, it has been agreed that a preliminary draw will be held separately for each one of them.
“The Asian Football Confederation has already started the qualifying competition and a second draw is scheduled to take place in July. Discussions involving the other confederations and the draws for their preliminary competitions are currently ongoing. Further details will follow in due course.”
FIFA has abandoned plans to expand the 2022 World Cup to 48 teams, and will continue with a 32-team competition. This means much of qualifying is likely to remain the same as last time.
EUROPE (UEFA; 13 PLACES)
Qualifying is not expected to begin until early 2021, with the next edition of the UEFA Nations League scheduled for September to November in 2020.
There will be 55 European nations to go through qualifying, who will be split into groups. Group winners will go direct to the finals and it is likely there will be a playoff system for the final spots, either using group runners-up or Nations League positions.
SOUTH AMERICA (CONMEBOL 4.5 PLACES)
As in recent qualifying competitions, all 10 nations play each other home and away. The top four nations qualify directly to the finals. The fifth-place team will go into an intercontinental playoff (draw to be determined).
Qualifying is expected to begin in March 2020 but as yet no fixtures have been confirmed.
NORTH AMERICA, CENTRAL AMERICA, CARIBBEAN (CONCACAF; 3.5 PLACES)
CONCACAF has 35 FIFA-affiliated nations, most of them very minor in world football.
There is no confirmation yet on the qualifying format, and some confederation officials have been calling for a shake up of an “archaic” and quite convoluted system considering there are so few teams. This is how it worked for 2018:
Round One: The 14 lowest ranked nations played two-legged ties.
Round Two: The seven winners from the first round and the next 13 lowest ranked nations played two-legged ties.
Round Three: The 10 winners from the second round were joined by Jamaica and Haiti — to make 12 teams playing two-legged ties.
Round Four: The six winners from the third round were joined by Costa Rica, Mexico, United States, Honduras, Panama and Trinidad & Tobago. Drawn into three groups of four nations playing home and away, the top two nations advanced.
Round Five (final round): The six winners from the fourth round formed one group of six teams. Top three teams qualified with the fourth-place team (Honduras) in an intercontinental playoff (0.5 place) against a team from Asia (Australia).
AFRICA (CAF; 5 PLACES)
The qualifying process has yet to be confirmed, but a plan to merge qualifying for the 2022 World Cup and the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations has been rejected.
There are 54 FIFA-affiliated nations, although Sierra Leone’s national team is currently suspended by FIFA and their participation is in doubt.
This is how qualifying for 2018 worked:
Round One: The 26 lowest ranked nations played two-legged ties.
Round Two: The 13 winners from the first round were joined by the remaining top 27 African nations to make 40 teams playing two-legged ties.
Round Three: The 20 winners from the second round were drawn into five groups of four nations playing home and away. Group winners qualified for the finals.
ASIA (AFC; 4.5 PLACES)
The Asian confederation held its draw for the first round in March, even though the number of finalists for the 2022 edition hadn’t been confirmed.
The first two rounds of qualifying are exactly the same as four years ago.
Round One: The 12 lowest ranked nations will play two-legged ties, on June 6 and June 11.
Round Two: The six winners from the first round join the other 34 Asian nations, drawn into eight groups of five teams — also played as qualifiers for the 2023 Asian Cup finals (for this reason World Cup hosts Qatar will take part in qualifying). The draw for this round takes place on July 17 with matches played between September 2019 and June 2020.
The format for the final rounds has not been announced, but it is likely to be similar to 2018:
Round Three (final group round): The remaining 12 nations were drawn into two groups of six teams. Group winners and runners-up qualified for the World Cup.
Round Four: The teams finishing third in round three played a two-legged playoff. The winners then advanced to an inter-confederation playoff.
OCEANIA (OFC; 0.5 PLACES)
At present there is no information about Oceania qualifying, but four years ago the OFC Nations Cup doubled as World Cup qualifying. The next Nations Cup is scheduled to take place in May or June of 2020 and all 11 FIFA-affiliated national teams are due to take part.
INTERCONTINENTAL PLAYOFFS (2 PLACES)
This will feature one team each from Asia, CONCACAF, Oceania and South America. A draw will determine the two-legged ties.