Qualifying for the 2022 World Cup began on June 6, 2019, when minor nations from the Asian confederation played their first round of matches. Mongolia's Norjmoogiin Tsedenbal scored the very first goal in qualifying in a 2-0 win over Brunei Darussalam.
NB: World Cup qualifying has been seriously affected by the coronavirus pandemic with many qualifying paths suspended. The information below may change depending on the viability of the qualifying paths and local situations.
EUROPE (UEFA; 13 PLACES)
There will be 55 European nations to go through qualifying, who will be split into 10 groups when the draw is held on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 -- with seeding based on FIFA's November World Ranking.
Qualifying will begin March 2021, with the next edition of the UEFA Nations League scheduled for September to November in 2020.
There will be 10 groups of 5 or 6 teams -- with the four teams in the UEFA Nations League finals drawn into a group of 5 so they will have free matchdays for the finals. The UEFA Nations League finals will be delayed to September or October 2021 as Euro 2020 has been rearranged to 2021. It means there will likely have to be qualifying treble headers in those month to also catch up with the lost World Cup qualifying dates from June 2021, though there may be an international window in January 2022.
Group winners will go direct to the finals.
The final three places with be allocated via playoffs. This will involve the 10 runners-up plus the two best-ranked teams in the 2020-21 UEFA Nations League not to have qualified. There will be three playoff routes, each with four teams with a semifinal and a final for a place at the World Cup, to be held in March 2022.
SOUTH AMERICA (CONMEBOL 4.5 PLACES)
As in recent qualifying competitions, all 10 nations play each other home and away. The top four nations qualify directly to the finals. The fifth-place team will go into an intercontinental playoff (draw to be determined).
The first four rounds of qualifiers in March and September 2020 were suspended and it is now due to begin in October 2020. CONMEBOL has made a request to FIFA to have an extra international break in January 2022 to complete qualifying in full in the existing format.
NORTH AMERICA, CENTRAL AMERICA, CARIBBEAN (CONCACAF; 3.5 PLACES)
CONCACAF has 35 FIFA-affiliated nations, most of them very minor in world football.
A revamped qualification process was confirmed for the 2022 edition, which was due to begin in September 2020 and run to September 2021. However, this has now been abandoned due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The format as had to be reworked again:
Round One: Nations ranked 6-35 in the FIFA World Ranking will be drawn into six groups of five. Each team will play every other team in their group only once, to be played in October and November 2020. The six group winners will progress.
Round Two: The six teams will play home and away in a direct elimination format in March 2021. The three winners will progress.
Final Round: The three winners join the teams ranked 1-5 in FIFA's World Ranking. The eight teams will play each other home and away, a total of 14 matches. The games will be played from June 2021 through to March 2022 -- including a round in January 2022. The top three qualify directly, with the fourth-placed team going to the intercontinental playoff in June 2022.
AFRICA (CAF; 5 PLACES)
The qualifying process has now been confirmed, with a modified format to the 2018 edition.
There are 54 FIFA-affiliated nations.
Round One: The 28 lowest ranked nations play two-legged ties. The ties were played in September 2019, with the full fixture list available here.
Round Two: The 14 winners from the first round were joined by the other 26 African nations. Those 40 teams were split into 10 groups of four teams, with the group winners advancing to the final round. This round was due to begin in March 2020 and run through to October 2021 until football was suspended.
The new match calendar is:
Matchday 1 - Oct. 5-13, 2020
Matchday 2 - Nov. 9-17, 2020
Matchday 3 - March 22-30, 2021
Matchday 4 - March 22-30, 2021
Matchday 5 - Aug. 30 - Sept. 7, 2021
Matchday 6 - Oct. 4-12, 2021
The groups are:
Group A: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Niger, Djibouti
Group B: Tunisia, Zambia, Mauritania, Equatorial Guinea,
Group C: Nigeria, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Liberia
Group D: Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Mozambique, Malawi
Group E: Mali, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda
Group F: Egypt, Gabon, Libya, Angola
Group G: Ghana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia
Group H: Senegal, Congo, Namibia, Togo
Group I: Morocco, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Sudan
Group J: Congo DR, Benin, Madagascar, Tanzania
Round Three: The 10 group winners will be drawn into head-to-head, two-legged ties for one of the five places at the World Cup. Fixtures to be played in November 2021.
ASIA (AFC; 4.5 PLACES)
The first two rounds of qualifying are exactly the same as four years ago.
Round One: The 12 lowest ranked nations played two-legged ties in June 2019. Guam, Macau, Mongolia, Timor-Leste, Bangladesh and Cambodia advanced.
Round Two: The six winners from the first round join the other 34 Asian nations, drawn into eight groups of five teams -- also played as qualifiers for the 2023 Asian Cup finals (for this reason World Cup hosts Qatar will take part).
The eight group winners and the four best group runners-up go through. If Qatar win their group, seven group winners and five best group runners-up progress.
Latest results can be seen here. Qualifying will resume in October 2020 with the stage completed on Nov. 17.
Group A: China, Syria, Philippines, Maldives, Guam
Group B: Australia, Jordan, Chinese Taipei, Kuwait, Nepal
Group C: Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, Hong Kong, Cambodia
Group D: Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, Palestine, Yemen, Singapore
Group E: Bangladesh, Oman, India, Afghanistan, Qatar
Group F: Japan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Myanmar, Mongolia
Group G: United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia
Group H: South Korea, Lebanon, North Korea, Turkmenistan, Sri Lanka
Round Three (final group round): The remaining 12 nations will be drawn into two groups of six teams. Group winners and runners-up qualified for the World Cup. Dates to be confirmed.
Round Four: The teams finishing third in round three played a two-legged playoff. The winners then advanced to an inter-confederation playoff. Dates to be confirmed.
OCEANIA (OFC; 0.5 PLACES)
All 11 FIFA-affiliated national teams are due to take part.
Round One: Teams split into two groups based upon FIFA World Ranking playing round robin games in March and June 2021. The top two nations in each group progress.
Round Two: The four teams play home and away semifinals (September 2021) and final (October 2021) for the right to go through to the intercontinental playoff (June 2022).
INTERCONTINENTAL PLAYOFFS (2 PLACES)
This will feature one team each from Asia, CONCACAF, Oceania and South America. A draw will determine the two-legged ties. They will be played in June 2022 -- pushed back from the original scheduled date in March 2022.