Concacaf announces formats for men’s national team competitions for the 2023-2026 cycle
- CNL League A expanded to include 16 teams and additional home-and-away quarterfinal round
- Qualification route announced for six Concacaf berths in 2024 CONMEBOL Copa America
- Concacaf Qualifiers for FIFA World Cup 2026 to kick off in March 2024
Miami, FL (Tuesday, February 28, 2023) – Concacaf has announced that its Council has approved the formats for its senior men’s national team competitions taking place between 2023 and 2026.
Concacaf has developed these formats following an extensive consultation process with its member associations and an analysis of the formats delivered in previous editions.
Regarding this important announcement, Concacaf President and FIFA Vice 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. 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.”
CONCACAF NATIONS LEAGUE
The Concacaf Nations League (CNL) was introduced by the Confederation in 2018 and provides all member associations with the opportunity to compete consistently in a regular schedule of official matches during the four-year cycle between FIFA World Cups. It drives development and delivers a compelling tournament for fans across the entire region. The first edition of the CNL was won by the United States after a fantastic Final against Mexico, which was played in Denver, Colorado in June 2021.
The second edition of CNL is currently in progress, with the last Group Stage matches taking place in the upcoming March 2023 FIFA window. These matches will determine the four League A winners that will advance to the 2022/23 CNL 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).
Beginning with the 2023/24 edition, which commences in September 2023, the competition’s format has been revamped to include more direct elimination matches that will qualify teams to continental summer competitions.
The 2023/24 edition will provide the qualification route for Concacaf’s six competing teams in the 2024 CONMEBOL Copa America. The 2024/25 CNL will qualify teams to the 2025 Gold Cup.
The format for the next two editions of CNL will be as follows:
The competition will continue to be played in a three-League format (A, B, and C). The region’s 41 men’s senior national teams will be distributed into the Leagues according to the results of the preceding CNL edition.
🧵 Everything you need to know about the next 2 editions of @CNationsLeague ⬇️ 🏆— Concacaf Nations League (@CNationsLeague) February 28, 2023
Full details 🔗 https://t.co/Rp74ug308P pic.twitter.com/MloeoFgXbh
League A: 16 national teams (Group Stage and Quarterfinals)
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).
League A’s new 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. Further details are available below.
League B: 16 national teams (Group Stage)
The League B format remains unchanged and will continue to feature 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: 9 national teams (Group Stage)
League C will include 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 Leagues
Due to the expansion of League A, heading into the 2023/24 edition, there will be promotion between leagues, but no relegation. As such, for the current 2022/23 CNL edition (which conludes with Group Stage games in March 2023 and a CNLF in June 2023), the League B group winners will be promoted to League A for the 2023/2024 edition. Similarly, the League C group winners will be promoted to League B.
Promotion and relegation between CNL Leagues will fully resume at the conclusion of the third edition, as follows:
- 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.
2023/24 and 2024/25 Concacaf Nations League Schedules
The 2023/24 Concacaf Nations League Group Stage will be played during the official FIFA Match Windows in September, October, and November 2023, followed by the CNL Finals in March 2024 to determine the winner for the third edition of CNL.
For League A, the new CNL Quarterfinals will be played in November 2023.
The official draw for the competition’s third edition is scheduled for Tuesday, May 16, 2023.
The 2024/25 edition will be played during the official FIFA match windows in September, October, and November 2024, followed by the CNL Finals in March 2025.
2024 CONMEBOL COPA AMERICA QUALIFICATION
In January 2023, CONMEBOL and Concacaf announced the signing of a strategic collaboration agreement to strengthen and develop football in both regions. This includes co-organizing the 2024 CONMEBOL Copa America in the United States and the participation of six Concacaf teams, as guests.
The six Concacaf national teams that will participate in this important competition will be determined through the 2023/24 CNL, as follows:
- Four League A Quarterfinal winners: These home-and-away matchups will be played in November 2023 between the four top-ranked League A teams (based on Concacaf Rankings) and group winners and runners-up (four teams total) in the new, expanded League A Groups.
- Two winners of a Concacaf Copa America Play-In: These single elimination matches will be played in March 2024, in a centralized venue, between the four League A losing Quarterfinalists.
2025 GOLD CUP QUALIFICATION
The 2024/25 CNL edition will serve as the qualifying competition for the 2025 Concacaf Gold Cup. Further updates regarding the qualification process will be announced in due course.
CONCACAF QUALIFIERS TO THE FIFA WORLD CUP 2026
In February 2023, the FIFA Council confirmed that the three FIFA World Cup 2026 hosts, Canada, Mexico, and the United States, will automatically qualify for the final competition.
FIFA also confirmed that Concacaf has been allocated a further three direct qualification berths and two FIFA Intercontinental Playoff berths.
Accordingly, including the three hosts, Concacaf can have up to eight participating federations at the next men’s FIFA World Cup.
The Concacaf Qualifiers for the 2026 FIFA World Cup will not include Canada, Mexico, and the United States. It will be played between Concacaf’s other 32 FIFA affiliated Member Associations, as follows:
First Round: March 2024, four member associations (two match dates)
The First Round will be played between the four lowest ranked Concacaf Member Associations (based on the FIFA Men’s Rankings as of November 2023). The four national teams will be split into two matchups, as follows:
- Highest ranked national team vs lowest ranked national team.
- Second highest ranked national team vs third highest ranked national team.
These home-and-away matches will be played in the FIFA match window of March 2024. At the end of the First Round, the two matchup winners will progress to the Second Round.
Second Round: June 2024 and June 2025, 30 member associations (four match dates)
The Second Round will be played between the two winners from the First Round and the Confederation’s remaining 28 FIFA member associations.
The 30 men’s senior national teams will be split into six groups of five teams, with each team playing the other teams in their group for a total of four matches per team, two home and two away.
Second Round matches will be played during the FIFA match windows of June 2024 and June 2025. At the conclusion of the Second Round, the group winners and runners-up (12 teams in total) will progress to the Final Round.
Final Round: Fall of 2025, 12 member associations (six match dates)
The Final Round of the Concacaf Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup 2026 will be played between the Second Round group winners and runners-up (12 teams in total).
The 12 men’s national teams will be split into three groups of four teams. Within each group, teams will play each other home-and-away, with each team playing a total of six matches (three at home and three away).
Final Round matches will take place in the FIFA match windows of the Fall 2025 (pending FIFA’s confirmation of the exact window dates). At the end of the Final Round, the three group winners will qualify directly to the 2026 FIFA World Cup, joining hosts Canada, Mexico, and the United States.
Additionally, the two best second place finishers will qualify to the FIFA World Cup 2026 Intercontinental Playoff.
Further details regarding the Intercontinental Playoff will be published by FIFA in due course.