Editor’s note: YouTube and FIFATV held the rights to the CAF World Cup Qualifying matches. Just before games started during the September international break, ESPN acquired the rights to air the games through ESPN+.
The African World Cup Qualifiers enter their second round during the September 2021 international break. And, in welcome news for soccer fans, all games will be available via ESPN+.
With ESPN making a hefty commitment to their soccer coverage, this demonstrates just another example of their attempt to grow the soccer market. Each of the games will be available on ESPN’s paid-streaming service in the United States.
Previously, YouTube and FIFATV were going to broadcast the Africa World Cup Qualifiers. Now, with a last-minute change, ESPN acquired the rights from FIFA for the United States’ coverage.
ESPN+, which also broadcasts LaLiga, the Bundesliga and multiple other competitions, will provide coverage of all 40 games in the September international break.
READ MORE: The complete TV guide for all World Cup qualifiers.
Africa World Cup Qualifiers format
CAF uses a multi-stage format to send their teams to the World Cup. For Africa, five teams will qualify for the group stage in Qatar.
In September 2019, 28 teams played home-and-away ties to reach the second stage. These 28 teams are the bottom-half of the CAF ranking issued by FIFA in July 2019. After the two-leg tie, these 14 teams, along with the 24 teams receiving a bye to the second round, enter the group stage in round two.
The 40 teams go into 10 groups of four. Each team plays each team in their group twice. One game is at home, the other is on the road. After each team plays their six games, the group winners enter a random draw to play another group winner in a home-and-away tie in the third round.
At the end of the tournament, there are five teams remaining, and these teams travel to Qatar for the World Cup.
This format differs from the previous renditions of the tournament. For example, in 2018, the group stage of the competition came in the third round. Then, it was five groups of four, with the group winners reaching the World Cup in Russia.
Regardless of any changes, the Africa World Cup Qualifiers never seem to disappoint. Additionally, that holds true for the first round in this cycle.
Somalia, the second-to-last ranked team in Africa, went up against Zimbabwe, the best team in the first stage. Somalia won at home 1-0. Later, a dramatic second leg came down to a 90th-minute winner. Three goals in the last five minutes saw Zimbabwe punch their ticket to the second stage of the competition.
Expect the same drama in the second round of the tournament. Only now, these games are available through an ESPN+ subscription.
Africa World Cup Qualifiers schedule
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