(ABOVE) The initial draw for 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying in CONCACAF was conducted on January 15, 2015, in Miami Beach, Florida, USA.
MIAMI – CONCACAF conducted on Thursday the draw for the initial phases of the CONCACAF Preliminary Competition for the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018.
The event was held at the W Hotel South Beach, with the assistance of World Cup veterans from the region including Shaka Hislop (Trinidad & Tobago), Pavel Pardo (Mexico), Carlos Pavon (Honduras) and Tony Sanneh (USA), as well as Brazilian all-time great Ronaldo.
The draw involved 27 of the 35 CONCACAF Member Associations seeking to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, and determined the match-ups for the first two rounds of the five-round regional qualifying tournament, beginning this March and running through 2017.
Round One, which will be played in two legs on dates from March 23-31 of this year, features seven home-and-away series, among the CONCACAF Member Associations ranked 22-35 in the region in the FIFA rankings from August 2014 – the first ranking after the completion of the 2014 World Cup and, thus, the first of the 2018 World Cup cycle.
The Round One series will be disputed between the following nations, with the team set to host the opening leg listed first:
Match 1: Bahamas v Bermuda
Match 2: British Virgin Islands v Dominica
Match 3: Barbados v U.S. Virgin Islands
Match 4: Turks and Caicos Islands v St. Kitts and Nevis
Match 5: Nicaragua v Anguilla
Match 6: Belize v Cayman Islands
Match 7: Curacao v Montserrat
Round Two of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying will be played from June 8-16, 2015, and features the seven winners from Round One plus thirteen additional national teams, which were drawn into the following ten pairings:
Match 8: St. Vincent & the Grenadines v Guyana
Match 9: Antigua & Barbuda v St. Lucia
Match 10: Puerto Rico v Grenada
Match 11: Canada v Winner Match #2
Match 12: Dominican Republic v Winner Match #6
Match 13: Guatemala v Winner Match #1
Match 14: Aruba v Winner Match #3
Match 15: Winner Match #4 v El Salvador
Match 16: Winner Match #7 v Cuba
Match 17: Winner Match #5 v Suriname
Round Three will follow from August 31-September 8 of this year, and consists of another series of home-and-away match-ups featuring the ten Round Two series winners, joined by the two Member Associations ranked 7 and 8 – Jamaica and Haiti.
The final six CONCACAF Member Associations (Costa Rica, Mexico, United States, Honduras, Panama, and Trinidad & Tobago – in order of rank) will join the competition for Round Four, which consists of three groups of four teams and is scheduled to be played in a round-robin format between November 2015 and September 2016.
Round Five, which will qualify three CONCACAF nations directly to the FIFA World Cup and provide a further intercontinental playoff spot for the fourth-placed team, will be played in the traditional six-team, hexagonal format among the top two teams from each Round Four group. This final round of World Cup Qualifying in CONCACAF is scheduled to be disputed from November 2016 to October 2017.
The match-ups for Round Three, as well as seeds for Round Four of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying, will be determined at the FIFA World Cup Qualifying Draw in St. Petersburg, Russia, on July 25, 2015.