2022 World Cup qualifying: all you need to know

How it works, match dates, group stage, play-off format, finals.

France celebrate 2018 FIFA World Cup final success in 2018
France celebrate 2018 FIFA World Cup final success in 2018 Getty Images

What is it?

The process by which UEFA’s 55 member associations will be whittled down to 13 teams for the 2022 final tournament in Qatar. Matches will span just over a year, from March 2021 to March 2022.

How does it work?

There are two stages to qualifying:

Group stage

Teams will be split into ten groups of five or six (the four teams who reach the 2021 UEFA Nations League Finals will be in the smaller groups). The ten group winners qualify for the World Cup.


The ten group runners-up are joined by the two best group winners of the 2020/21 UEFA Nations League overall ranking that have neither qualified directly for the final tournament as European Qualifiers group winners, nor entered the play-offs already as European Qualifiers group runners-up. The 12 teams will be drawn into three play-off paths for one-off semi-finals and a final. The three path winners qualify for the World Cup.

When do the matches and finals take place?

Matchday 1: 24–25 March 2021
Matchday 2: 27–28 March 2021
Matchday 3: 30–31 March 2021
Matchday 4: 1–2 September 2021
Matchday 5: 4–5 September 2021
Matchday 6: 7–8 September 2021
Matchday 7: 8–9 October 2021
Matchday 8: 11–12 October 2021
Matchday 9: 11–13 October 2021
Matchday 10: 14–16 November 2021
Play-offs: 24, 25, 28, 29 March 2022

When is the 2022 World Cup?

The 22nd finals will be the first World Cup not held in May, June, or July; the tournament is instead scheduled for a reduced timeframe between 21 November to 18 December. The draw will be in April 2022.