UEFA has confirmed that its new World Cup qualifying format will be in place for the 2022 tournament. Following the Nations League, the new qualifying system aims to give UEFA teams a level of excitement not previously seen. The new format will see teams from different confederations fighting to secure a final few spots in Qatar.
The UEFA Executive Committee confirmed the new qualification format at a meeting in Nyon, Switzerland on 4 December. After the group stages, the top teams in each group will be seeded into three playoff paths. The winner of each path will advance to the World Cup finals. Each path features a play-off semi-final and one single-leg final. The top two Nations League group winners will advance to the second round, while the remaining 10 group runners-up will advance to the playoffs. The best two teams from each Nations League group will then be added to the top two teams in the playoff paths.
The first round of qualifying will be held in Zurich, Switzerland on 7 December. The draw for the first round was held as a virtual event due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A total of 55 teams entered the qualification. The winner of each group was assigned the top spot in alphabetical order. The top two teams in the UEFA zone advanced to the final round.
The UEFA Executive Committee approved the use of a video assistant referee system for qualifiers. The UEFA zone is comprised of 55 countries and the ten group winners and ten group runners-up will be eligible for the World Cup. The group stage and play-offs will be hosted by different countries, with the final tournament taking place in Lusail, Qatar. The final tournament will include the most assists and most goals in a single tournament. The tournament will feature the top scorers in 2022.
The playoffs will see six-seeded teams in Pot 1 face unseeded teams from Pot 2. The winner of each semi-final will face the winner of the match between Poland and Sweden in the Path A semi-final. The winner of the Path B semi-final will face the winner of the Match between Ukraine and Scotland. The Path C semi-final will feature Italy and Portugal. The semi-final winner will host the playoff final. The final is scheduled to take place in June.
The winner of each path will qualify for the 2022 World Cup. A total of 13 berths will be available for UEFA teams in the final tournament. The draw for the semi-finals will take place in late March or early April, depending on the host country. The final will be played on 28-29 March. The home team will be drawn for the play-off semis.
The playoffs will include two rounds of single-match playoffs, with the winner of each path qualifying for the World Cup. The semi-finals will be played on 24-25 March. The play-off semis will be broadcast on Sony TEN 1 and Sony TEN 2 TV channels. The semi-finals will also be streamed on JioTV and Sony LIV.