How Canada can qualify for World Cup in Qatar: Explaining scenarios for CanMNT in 2022

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Jonthan Osorio - Canada - Mexico - October 7, 2021
(Getty Images)

Canada has qualified for just one FIFA men’s World Cup in the nation’s history, but that could change ahead of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Les Rouges are leading the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying with four matches left, and there is a real possibility that Canada could qualify for its first World Cup since 1986. Still, there’s work to be done to clinch one of three direct berths.

There’s a scenario in which Canada could clinch a World Cup berth with a win in El Salvador on Wednesday coupled with Panama and Costa Rica both failing to surpass the 15-point threshhold. That would have Canada mathematically clear of five other teams — at least 10 points clear with only nine available points available to chasing teams — before the final three matches are played in March.

MORE: How long is Alphonso Davies out for Canada?

CONCACAF World Cup qualifying standings

Below are the current standings in the race to qualify for the 2022 World Cup from the CONCACAF region. 

Team PTS GP W L D GF GA GD
1.* Canada 22 10 6 0 4 17 5 +12
2.* USA 18 10 5 2 3 13 7 +6
3.* Mexico 17 9 5 2 2 13 8 +5
4.* Panama 14 9 4 3 2 11 10 +1
5. Costa Rica 12 9 3 3 3 7 7 0
6. Jamaica 7 9 1 4 4 7 12 -5
7. El Salvador 6 9 1 5 3 4 11 -7
8. Honduras 3 9 0 6 3 5 17 -12

* The top three teams earn direct berths to Qatar 2022, while fourth place will head to an intercontinental playoff against a nation from Oceania.

Canada World Cup qualifying schedule & results

Below is the full list of Canada’s past results and upcoming matches in the quest for 2022 World Cup qualification. 

Date Match Time (ET) TV / Stream
Sept. 2, 2021 Canada 1, Honduras 1   Highlights
Sept. 5, 2021 USA 1, Canada 1   Highlights
Sept. 8, 2021 Canada 3, El Salvador 0   Highlights
Oct. 7, 2021 Mexico 1, Canada 1   Highlights
Oct. 10, 2021 Jamaica 0, Canada 0   Highlights
Oct. 13, 2021 Canada 4, Panama 1   Highlights
Nov. 12, 2021 Canada 1, Costa Rica 0   Highlights
Nov. 16, 2021 Canada 2, Mexico 1   Highlights
Jan. 27, 2022 Honduras 0, Canada 2   Highlights
Jan. 30, 2022 Canada 2, USA 0    
Feb. 2, 2022 El Salvador vs. Canada 9 p.m.  
Mar. 24, 2022 Costa Rica vs. Canada TBD  
Mar. 27, 2022 Canada vs. Jamaica TBD  
Mar. 30, 2022 Panama vs. Canada TBD  

How many points to qualify for the World Cup?

If we’re using past regional World Cup qualifying cycles for historical comparisons, we need to use the points per game metric (PPG), since there were only 10 matches played in the CONCACAF final round in past cycles (compared to the 14 on the calendar in the lead-up to Qatar 2022).

While the number of matches was different, the top three spots still qualified directly to each World Cup tournament listed below (points per game of each qualified team indicated in bold). And since the 2006 World Cup, the fourth-place team advanced to a playoff against a nation from another region.

Qualifying 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th
1998 1.8 1.7 1.4 1.2 1.0 0.6
2002 2.3 1.7 1.7 1.4 0.8 0.5
2006 2.2 2.2 1.6 1.3 1.1 0.2
2010 2.0 1.9 1.6 1.6 0.8 0.6
2014 2.2 1.8 1.5 1.1 0.8 0.5
2018 2.1 1.6 1.3 1.3 1.2 0.6
2022* 2.2 1.8 1.9 1.8 1.1 0.8 0.7 0.3

Canada qualifying results projection

Canada has 22 points with four matches remaining. So what needs to realistically happen for Canada to be comfortably in that 1.8-1.9 points-per-game range (25-27 points) it needs to qualify without breaking a sweat? Or, if fans wish to dream big, how can they push towards the 2.0 PPG barrier (at least 28 points) to claim the top spot?

MORE: Which teams have qualified for the 2022 World Cup?

We took a stab at projecting results for the final four matches, taking a less favorable set of outcomes to find the minimum required to comfortably qualify. Canada is currently undefeated in first place, but it only has one home game remaining in its final four (vs. Jamaica in March) with three road trips to Central America coming up.

The less favorable set of outcomes includes two draws in those final four games at Panama and Costa Rica. the resulting projected total of 30 points (and an approximate 2.1 points-per-game mark) should be more than enough to qualify.

Thanks to the win in Honduras and against the USA, Canada now has a little more room for error. For example, a draw instead of a win against either Jamaica or El Salvador would still leave Canada in a strong position (28 points, 2.0 PPG), especially if the other teams around them (USA and Mexico) were to continue racking up wins. 

Match Date Opponent / Result PPG
11 Wednesday Feb. 2, 2022 El Salvador 0, Canada 2 (Win) 2.3
12 Thursday March 24, 2022 Costa Rica 1, Canada 1 (Draw) 2.2
13 Sunday March 27, 2022 Canada 1, Jamaica 0 (Win) 2.2
14 Wednesday March 30, 2022 Panama 2, Canada 2 (Draw) 2.1

When might Canada secure World Cup qualification?

With five matches remaining in the qualification cycle (15 available points) and the top four teams within just five points, it is likely that qualification will come down to the March window of matches.

To clinch before March, Canada woud need to win its next two matches (vs. USA and at El Salvador) and hope Costa Rica and Panama don’t go past 15 points in their next two games. That series of results would guarantee Canada finishes in one of the top three spots. 

Whenever Canada does clinch, the schedule sets up for the March 27 home match against Jamaica to be a real celebration like Canada hasn’t seen in generations.

Canada is unbeaten in nine matches, with five wins and four draws to the Maple Leafs’ name, and the ability to secure results on the road has been key. They picked up a win in Honduras and draws on the road against the United States, Mexico and Jamaica. Add those to a 4W-0L-1D home record, including a famous 2-1 home win over Mexico, and the points have come in bunches.

MORE: How the World Cup intercontinental playoffs work

The schedule sees three of its last five matches coming on the road, so Canada will need the road warrior mentality moving forward. Its two remaining home matches against the United States and Jamaica will be critical.

Canadian fans will be hoping the results from its last two matches in this window — including that home match against the USA — will allow it to control its own destiny heading into the final set of qualifiers. 

Scenarios to clinch a World Cup berth in this window:

🇺🇸

– Two U.S. wins

– Two Panama losses

– Max of 2 points for CRC

🇨🇦

– Two Canada wins

– Max of 1 point for Panama

– Max of 3 pts for CRC

— Paul Carr (@PaulCarr) January 28, 2022

CONCACAF standings tiebreakers

There’s always a possibility that the CONCACAF standings are extra tight and that Canada is tied on points with one or more of the other nations in the qualifying standings. Tiebreakers would come into play.

Here are the standings tiebreakers for teams even on points:

  1. Goal difference in all group matches
  2. Most goals scored in all group matches
  3. Most points obtained from group matches between teams concerned
  4. Goal difference from group matches between teams concerned
  5. Most goals scored in group matches between teams concerned
  6. Goals scored away from home (if two teams are tied)
  7. Discipline points (based on yellow/red cards)
  8. Drawing of lots by FIFA

The Qatar World Cup will be played from Nov. 21 to Dec. 18, 2022.

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