FIFA’s first men’s rankings of the decade don’t feature many changes — Belgium is still ranked first in the world, the U.S. men’s national team remains 22nd and Canada continues to fall just shy of cracking into the top six in Concacaf.
There was movement inside the top 50 among just three nations — Wales, Paraguay, and Ghana — though by just one place in either direction.
That said, there weren’t many international fixtures since the previous rankings, which were released in December.
Canada beat Barbados twice in a pair of friendlies at the start of January, then lost a friendly to Iceland later in the month. Four days after beating Canada, Iceland also defeated El Salvador in another exhibition match.
How Canada and El Salvador perform between now and June will be critical to their paths for qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
Under new procedures, the top six teams in Concacaf at the time of the June 2020 FIFA men’s rankings will play in a home-and-away round robin, with the top three finishers clinching automatic berths to Qatar.
It’s far more complicated for Concacaf teams ranked below sixth. Those teams will be placed in three and four-team groups. The eight group winners meet in two-legged aggregate knockout matches and the final team standing take on the fourth-place finisher in the six-team hexagonal.
From there, the winner will face a nation from either Oceania, Asia or South America to clinch a berth for Qatar.
Both Canada and El Salvador want to avoid this rigmarole and take the straightforward path that comes with being ranked in Concacaf’s top six.
Canada – ranked 73rd overall – has to outperform El Salvador between now and June if it hopes to leapfrog La azul y Blanco into sixth place. Canada has a pair of friendlies against Trinidad and Tobago scheduled for March 27 and 31 in Langford, British Columbia.
The U.S. is still ranked second in Concacaf behind Mexico, which is 11th overall, ahead of friendlies against the Netherlands (March 26) and Wales (March 30). The U.S. defeated Costa Rica 1-0 Feb. 1 in its last game.
Costa Rica (46th overall) is Concacaf’s third-ranked team, followed by Jamaica (48th overall) and Honduras (62nd) overall.
On the whole, Palestine was the best mover in this edition of the rankings, moving up three spots to 103rd.
Conversely, Hong Kong and Seychelles dropped two spots to 143rd and 202nd, respectively. The Cook Islands were also kicked off the rankings for being inactive.
The next rankings come out in April 2020.