World Cup Playoffs: When Are They and How do They Work?

How do the World Cup playoffs work?

With UEFA’s World Cup qualifying groups coming to a conclusion in this round of international fixtures, the teams that will be competing in the playoffs for World Cup qualification will be decided. Here, we give you the ultimate guide to the World Cup playoffs.

How many teams are in the World Cup playoffs?

The World Cup playoffs will include 12 teams, the second-placed teams from the ten qualifying groups and the top two ranked nations league not placed in the top two in the qualifying groups will participate in the new format.

The 12 teams will be split into seeded and unseeded teams, the seeded teams will be six best-ranked teams, according to UEFA rankings, that finished second place in the group stages, the unseeded teams will be the other second-placed teams and the two teams that qualify through the Nations League.

The playoffs are split into three paths, path A, B, and C, four teams in each path, two seeded teams and two unseeded teams, the seeded teams will have the advantage of being at home in the semi-finals fixtures, and the final will be hosted by the higher-ranked team.

How does the World Cup playoffs format look?

The winners in each of the semi-finals matches will move onto the final, playing the other semi-finals winner in the same path, the winner of the final in each path will be the three teams that gain qualification to the 2022 World Cup.

The playoffs are single-leg knockout games, if the scores are level after 90 minutes, the games will then proceed to extra-time and penalties if needed to decide a winner.

The playoffs will be played in the March 2022 international fixtures, with the semi-finals taking place on either the 24th or 25th of March and the finals taking place a few days later on the 28th or 29th of March.

The draw for each pathway for the teams that make it into the playoffs will be held on November 26th.

Who is looking the most likely team to get into the World Cup playoffs?

With this format, the final group stage matches become very important to some teams, with multiple teams playing for whether they have to go through the playoffs to get qualification, get automatic qualification, or don’t get qualification at all.

This is the case in multiple groups, in group A, both Portugal and Serbia are on 17 points at the top of the group, eight points ahead of the other teams, they play each other in the final fixture of the group stage, with Serbia needing to win to gain automatic qualification as they have less goal difference than Portugal.

Another game deciding if a team gains automatic qualification or have to go through the playoffs is in group B, Spain are currently 1 point ahead of Sweden at the top of the group, with both playing each other in the final group game, Sweden need to beat Spain to gain automatic qualification.

This is also the same in group H, Russia are two points ahead of Croatia at the top of the group, with both teams playing each other in the final group game, it is crucial for Croatia to get a victory to gain automatic qualification rather than having to go through the playoffs.

The playoffs will include many potential interesting teams, this could include the likes of Spain and Portugal if they lose their final group games, Scotland will most likely be in the playoffs, their next game will be against Moldova who haven’t won a game in the group stage so far, making it very likely this is the path Scotland will take to try and gain World Cup qualification.


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