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NEW YORK – CONCACAF is changing its World Cup qualifying hexagonal to an octagonal in response to the coronavirus pandemic and delaying the start until next June.
The United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, Jamaica and Honduras receive byes directly to the octagonal, the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football announced Monday.
CONCACAF’s other 30 nations will compete for three additional spots in the final round. The octagonal will take place with four games per team in next June’s double FIFA international match window followed by two apiece in September, October and November 2021, and two each in January and March 2022.
By staying with a large total of teams in the final round, CONCACAF ensured two high-profile, lucrative qualifiers between the U.S. and Mexico. The format also provides margin for slipups, though there were not enough to prevent the U.S. from missing the 2018 World Cup in Russia when it lost to Mexico and Costa Rica at home and at Trinidad and Tobago on…