Qualifying congestion delays draw for 2022 World Cup

ZURICH (AP) — The tournament draw for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is set to be pushed back by two months after FIFA rescheduled a qualifying playoff on Thursday.

FIFA said its council agreed to delay an intercontinental four-team playoff – from March 2022 to June that year – due to fixture congestion caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The 32-team tournament draw was planned for April 2022, likely in Doha. The earliest option is now to hold it in June ahead of the Nov. 21-Dec. 18 tournament.

The intercontinental round involves one team from each of four confederations: Asia, North America’s CONCACAF, South America’s CONMEBOL and Oceania. Two teams advance to the World Cup.

Europe’s UEFA has its own 12-team playoffs planned in March 2022 to decide three qualifying places. Africa has no playoff round.

World Cup qualifying in South America and Asia has fallen behind schedule after games were postponed in March and June. South American qualifiers should now start in September, and Asia should resume in October.

FIFA on Thursday also approved a new test competition for Qatar’s organizers, featuring 22 Arab nations.

The pan-Arab tournament will run from Dec. 1-18, 2021 in Qatar. It will involve home-based players from clubs in each country’s domestic championship, rather than those based abroad such as star players with clubs in Europe.

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