CAIRO: Africa has become the latest continent to charge its World Cup qualifying system ahead of the preliminaries leading to the finals in atar to 2020.
The Confederation of African Football teams has ordered up a final playoff round similar to the format ahead of the 2014 finals in Brazil.
The three stages of qualifying will see two rounds of knockout ties on either side of league competition. The 28 lowest ranked sides on the continent will first contest a knockout round over two legs, with the 14 winners advancing to the group stage. The 28 include Madagascar, who reached the Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finals last week.
The winners will join the 26 highest ranked sides in a 40-team, 10-group pool phase that will be played over 18 months.
The group winners will then be drawn into five playoff ties over two legs with the victors qualifying for the World Cup. The first leg is hosted by the lower ranked country.
For the 2018 finals in Russia, CAF organised two preliminary rounds to cut the field down to 20 countries, who then contested the five places for Africa in a group competition.
The changes come despite no alteration in the number of World Cup places for African teams.
FIFA has left each continental confederation to decide its qualifying format for the 2022 World Cup and set its own date for the preliminary round draw, expected to be in Cairo – in Africa’s case – laterthis month.
The qualifiers will overlap with qualifiers for the next Africa Cup of Nations in 2021 but a proposed combination – similar to that employed in Asia – has been rejected by CAF’s executive committee.
CONCACAF has also changed the qualifying system for nations in the Caribbean, central and north America.