The Confederation of African Football (CAF) have announced the new format of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.
The 2022 World Cup qualifiers format for Africa, restores the format used in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers.
The 2022 World Cup will take place in Qatar and it will be the last of its kind as it will host 32 countries, as starting 2026 the tournament will see the participation of 48 teams.
The new format will go through three phases as follows:
1- A preliminary round: The 26 highest ranked teams, according to the FIFA ranking, will be exempted of the preliminary round leaving 28 participating teams in that round. Of these 28 teams, the 14 highest ranked teams will play against the least ranked teams (1st leg will be played at home of the lowest ranked teams).
2- Group stage: The 14 winning teams of the preliminary round will join the 26 exempted teams in the Group Stage and will be divided into 10 groups of 4 teams. The draw of the groups will be based on the seeding of the 40 teams into 4 levels according to the FIFA ranking. Each group will contain a team of each level.
3- Knock-out stage: The winners of the 10 groups will be divided into 2 levels according to the FIFA ranking. The 5 highest ranked teams will play against the lowest ranked teams (1st leg will be played at home of the lowest ranked teams).
This format comes as a switch from the system used in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers in the African zone, which consisted of two preliminary knock-out stages and a subsequent group stage. Twenty teams were divided into five groups and the winners directly qualified for the football’s most prestigious showpiece.