The United States men’s national team nudged its way up in FIFA’s newest world rankings released Thursday but the rest of the Concacaf region saw some shuffling that could have big consequences for World Cup qualifying later this year.
The USMNT moved up one spot to No. 22 in FIFA’s rankings after a pair of resounding wins in the Concacaf Nations League to Canada and Cuba earlier this month. The USMNT holds onto its position as the second-highest ranked Concacaf team overall behind Mexico, who were unchanged at the No. 11 spot.
But the swap of Canada and El Salvador in the order of rankings means that Canada is now on the outside looking in for the final hexagonal round of 2020 World Cup qualifying, popularly known as “the Hex.” Canada dropped four spots to No. 73 after the loss to the USMNT, while El Salvador rose four spots No. 69 following Concacaf Nations League wins over the Dominican Republic, Montserrat and Saint Lucia.
Now Canada is under pressure to improve their standing to qualify for the Hex as the top six countries from FIFA’s world rankings in June will earn spots in that final World Cup qualifying round. Costa Rica (No. 46), Jamaica (No. 48), Honduras (No. 62) and El Salvador all stand in Canada’s way, along with the U.S. and Mexico.
Since the Canadians failed to advance in the Concacaf Nations League, they will have limited opportunities to play the sort of competitive games that will allow them to make up ground in the rankings, but they will have at least the March and June international windows in 2020 to make their case.
As of Thursday, no fixtures for next year are scheduled on the Canadian Soccer Association calendar. The USMNT will continue in the Concacaf Nations League, but that schedule has not yet been set.