When World Cup 2022 qualifying begins, less than a year will have past since France captain Hugo Lloris lifted the trophy in Moscow following Les Bleus' 4-2 win over Croatia in the final.
It is expected that 211 teams from six confederations will begin the process, with each aiming to join Qatar, the hosts, at the forthcoming showpiece.
While many of the world's continental organizations are still finalizing their qualification process for the tournament, in Asia the tournament is mere weeks away.
Here is the state of play in each continent as things stand.
It is anticipated that all 55 national teams affiliated with UEFA will enter the qualifying draw for the 2022 World Cup.
The exact nature of qualification has yet to be specified, however.
In previous campaigns, there has been a single qualification group, in which the winners have automatically qualified for the competition while runners-up have most typically been involved in some kind of play-off for the remaining European allocation.
There has been some speculation that the second season of the Nations League could be linked with World Cup qualification, which could prove similar to the qualifying process for Euro 2020.
The first round of World Cup qualification in Asia will begin on June 6, 2019, with the confederation’s 12 lowest-ranked sides playing home and away to determine who will move through to the second round.
The draw for the second round of qualification will be held on July 17, 2019 and will involve all the winners of the first-round ties as well as the remaining AFC teams, including World Cup hosts Qatar, as this process is also the qualifying process for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup.
Second round matches, which entail eight groups of five teams playing twice, take place from September 5, 2019 until June 9, 2020. The top two teams will move to the third round of World Cup qualifying.
While it has not been confirmed, it is anticipated there will be another group stage, taking place from September 3, 2020 until October 12, 2021.
In 2018, the top teams from these two pools qualified automatically, with the third-placed finishers involved in a fourth-round tie for the right to play in the CONCACAF – AFC playoff, which was won by Australia on that occasion.
Again these dates are not set in stone, but it is anticipated the fourth-round matches would be played on November 11 and 16, 2021.
The inter-continental playoff is slated for March 2022.
The schedule for World Cup qualification in Africa has not yet been confirmed, with Sierra Leone under threat of missing out due to a FIFA ban.
Africa has five qualifying slots and 54 sides chasing them (including Sierra Leone).
Provisional dates for the qualifying process extend from October 2019 through to November 2021.
In 2018, there were two knockout rounds followed by a group stage for the third round. The remaining 20 sides were divided into five pools of four, with only the winners progressing.
Neither the schedule nor the format for CONCACAF World Cup qualifying has been confirmed.
It may be that there is a change in the format of the competition after it received criticism in the 2018 process for leaving the vast majority of countries eliminated from the World Cup two years before the finals even took place.
Three direct slots are available for North and Central American sides, with the process expected to begin in March 2020 and end in November 2021.
It has already been confirmed that the South American nations will maintain their traditional qualification process of one pool involving all 10 nations, who will play each other home and away.
These 18 dates fit neatly into the FIFA international calendar, with the opening two rounds of matches to take place in the March 2020 window and the final games to be played in November 2021.
A draw in July 2019 will determine the fixtures.
The side finishing fifth in the group will face an inter-confederation playoff in March 2022 against the best side from Oceania. No exact dates are available for these two games.
The format for the OFC qualification process has not been finalized and neither has the dates from which it might take place. It is virtually certain to finish in November 2021, however.
In 2018, there was a round robin group stage for the four lowest-ranked sides played at one venue over the course of a week.
The winner moved through to a second group stage, comprising of two pools of four who played once each.
The top three teams qualified for another group stage of three teams each, with the winners playing off for the right to feature in the inter-confederation play-offs, in which New Zealand lost 2-0 to Peru over two legs.
By Robin Bairner
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