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

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 five 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.

The United States sit just a point back in second place, with a head-to-head matchup between the two sides looming on Jan. 30. Mexico and Panama are also within striking distance just two and five points behind, meaning things could change quickly, especially with two more matches in the current window taking place in the span of three days.

MORE: How long is Alphonso Davies out for Canada?

The three frontrunners all won their respective Matchday 9 contests with Canada still the only undefeated team left in the qualifying group. A couple of consecutive bad results could always alter the picture, but fans of Canada, the USA and Mexico will like their chances to advance at this point.

CONCACAF World Cup qualifying standings

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

The top three teams earn automatic qualification to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, while the team finishing in fourth will play an intercontinental playoff against the winner of the Oceana region. The bottom four teams are eliminated.

Team PTS GP W L D GF GA GD
1.* Canada 19 9 5 0 4 15 5 +10
2.* USA 18 9 5 1 3 13 5 +8
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 United States 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 vs. United States 3:05 p.m.  
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* 2.1 2.0 1.9 1.8 1.1 0.8 0.7 0.3

Canada qualifying results projection

So what needs to realistically happen for Canada to be comfortably in that 1.8-1.9 points-per-game range 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 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 five 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 two home games remaining in its final five (vs. USA and Jamaica) with three road trips to Central America coming up.

The less favorable set of outcomes includes a loss and two draws in those final five games. Considering a possible home loss to the United States, plus road draws at Panama and Costa Rica, the resulting total of 29 points (and an approximate 1.9 points-per-game mark) should be enough to qualify.

Thanks to the win in Honduras, Canada now has a little more room for error. For example, a draw instead of a win against Jamaica and El Salvador would still leave Canada in a strong position (1.8 PPG), especially if the other teams around them were to continue racking up wins. Clearly, a result (perhaps a win?) against the United States at home would go a long way towards avoiding a nailbiting finish and locking up a spot before the final game in Panama.

Match Date Opponent / Result PPG
10 Sunday Jan. 30, 2022 Canada 0, United States 1 (Loss) 1.9
11 Wednesday Feb. 2, 2022 El Salvador 0, Canada 2 (Win) 2.0
12 Thursday March 24, 2022 Costa Rica 1, Canada 1 (Draw) 1.9
13 Sunday March 27, 2022 Canada 1, Jamaica 0 (Win) 2.0
14 Wednesday March 30, 2022 Panama 2, Canada 2 (Draw) 1.9

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.

Canada woud need to win its next two matches and hope Costa Rica loses its next two matches to guarantee a minimum fourth-place finish, which would at worst guarantee Canada a single-elimination interncontinental playoff against Oceania’s representative, likely to be New Zealand. Only the top three places earn a direct ticket to Qatar.

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. 

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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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.