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World Cup 2022: How do the UEFA play-offs work?

Portugal
(Image credit: Getty Images)

World Cup 2022 takes place in November next year - with UEFA play-offs scheduled for March. 

There were five groups of five teams and five groups of six teams in the original qualification groups that UEFA set up for the World Cup next winter. Each of these 10 groups had one automatic spot to get to the tournament - with the runners-up each being given a pathway to the play-off process. 

The ten runners-up from the qualification groups all advance to the play-offs. Based on the results from the qualifying group stage, the six best-ranked teams will be seeded, while the bottom four will be unseeded in the semi-final draw.

As it stands, six teams - Portugal, Scotland, Italy, Russia, Sweden and Poland - will all be seeded in the next round. Right now, Wales, North Macedonia, Turkey and Finland will not.

Czech Republic and Austria will also get a place each in the play-offs as the best two teams from the Nations League outside the top two of their qualifying group. Both will be unseeded.

On November 26, the 12 teams will be drawn into three paths - A, B and C. There will be four teams in each path - two seeded and two non-seeded. Each seeded team will play a non-seeded team. 

So Path A, for example, could contain Portugal facing Turkey and Italy facing Finland. The winners of each tie will then face off in a final - there will be three teams of the final 12 getting to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

For political reasons, matches between the following pair of teams are considered prohibited clashes, unable to be drawn into the same play-off path: Russia and Ukraine, Armenia and Azerbaijan, Gibraltar and Spain, Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo and Serbia and Kosovo and Russia - though none of those fixtures can happen.