2022 Soccer Almanac: Key dates & major tournaments in busy year ahead
Thursday, Dec 30, 2021, 01:31 PM
Ready or not, 2021 is in the rearview mirror and a new year has arrived. It's rich with portentous history to be made, from the 28 teams who will take part in Major League Soccer’s 27th season to the unprecedented autumn FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
Here are the key dates you need to know for the year of soccer ahead:
Jan. 3: MAC Hermann Trophy ceremony
St. Louis, Mo.
The top individual prize in college soccer, this award recognizing the NCAA’s best is presented at a dinner at the Missouri Athletic Club, and many past winners have gone on to successful professional and international careers. The 2022 men’s finalists are Clemson senior defender Oskar Ågren, Georgetown junior midfielder Dante Polvara and University of Washington senior forward Dylan Teves, while the women’s finalists are BYU senior midfielder Mikayla Colohan, Florida State senior midfielder Jaelin Howell and Santa Clara senior forward Kelsey Turnbow.
Jan. 8-?: US men’s national team January camp
With Concacaf’s compacted World Cup qualifying cycle requiring a rare midwinter triple-match window in late January and early February, US men's national team head coach Gregg Berhalter will look to keep his domestic-based players fit during the North American offseason with workouts and scrimmages in a warm-weather locale as yet unannounced, but reputed to be in the Phoenix, Arizona area.
January dates TBA: US women’s national team January camp
With the four-time Women’s World Cup champions falling short in their Olympic gold medal bid over the summer, head coach Vlatko Andonovski is overseeing a youth movement as rising talent bids to succeed the likes of Carli Lloyd. That process will be central to the USWNT’s first gathering of 2022.
Jan. 9-Feb. 6: 2021 Africa Cup of Nations
Twice delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the 33rd edition of Africa’s top international tournament will finally unfold this winter, with 24 teams playing at six stadiums, two in Yaoundé and five others across Cameroon. Algeria are defending champions thanks to their 2019 triumph in Egypt, the first AFCON to feature an expanded format from the previous 16 participating nations.
Jan. 10 and 16: MLS preseason begins
It’s the first steps teams take on their yearlong journey together: Players and coaches reporting to their respective clubs as preparations for the new season, which starts earlier than ever before, get underway. The five clubs competing in Concacaf Champions League – MLS Cup champions New York City FC, the Supporters' Shield-winning New England Revolution, Canadian Championship winners CF Montreal, 2021 Western Conference regular-season winners Colorado Rapids and the Seattle Sounders (the team with the next-best regular-season record in 2021) – get an extra week’s head start to prepare for their mid-February CCL Round of 16 matchups vs. overseas opposition in mid-season form. Look for official announcements of preseason camps and events in Arizona, Florida, South Carolina, Texas and other warm-weather destinations in the coming days.
Jan. 11: MLS SuperDraft, presented by adidas
The SuperDraft provides MLS teams the opportunity to bolster their rosters with top talent from NCAA soccer and beyond. The 2022 edition will take place as a live show streamed on MLSsoccer.com and other MLS channels, with expansion newcomers Charlotte FC holding the No. 1 pick.
January TBA: Canada men’s national team January camp
It was a good 2021 indeed for the Canada men's national team, who began the year facing a marathon slog of preliminary-round Concacaf qualifiers and ended it undefeated atop the Octagonal standings, with their first World Cup berth since 1986 looking more realistic than it has in a decade or three. John Herdman & Co. will start what they hope is another epic year with a winter gathering for MLSers and out-of-season players in sunny south Florida, capped by a snowbird friendly vs. Guatemala at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, the home of Inter Miami CF, on Jan. 22; Canadian viewers can watch on OneSoccer, FuboTV and Telus channel 980 (6:30 pm ET).
Jan. 19-23: United Soccer Coaches (formerly NSCAA) Convention
The pandemic forced this annual wintertime gathering of thousands of coaches, players, referees, executives and many, many others to be held online in 2021. Now “ReUnited” is the theme as it returns to an in-person format in KC, albeit with an ample recorded video component for registrants. Everton manager Rafa Benitez is this year’s headline presenter, and many figures from MLS past and present will also be among the dozens of presenters leading seminars and sessions.
Jan 24-Feb. 2: FIFA men’s international fixture window
Five of the world’s confederations will hold matches during this period, and for the Concacaf region, it’s all about the Octagonal World Cup qualifying matches. With the region’s final round of qualification for Qatar 2022 now more than half over, the eight-nation group enters a pivotal winter window of three matches per team that figures to frame the final sprint for a World Cup berth. Canada and the United States currently top the standings and their faceoff at Tim Horton’s Field in icy Hamilton, Ontario on Jan. 30 looks like the tastiest fixture of the window. On either side of the clash, the USMNT host El Salvador at Columbus Crew's Lower.com Field and Honduras at Minnesota United's Allianz Field, while the CanMNT will visit Honduras and El Salvador.
Feb. 1: NWSL preseason begins
Players and coaches across the National Women's Soccer League, North America's top women's pro competition, report to their respective clubs as preparations for the new season begin.
Feb. 3-12: FIFA Club World Cup
United Arab Emirates
In yet another example of an event postponed by the pandemic, the 2021 edition of the CWC takes place in ‘22 as the club champions from every confederation in the world gather in the Middle East for this unique tournament, the only set occasion on which clubs from different continents face off in competitive action. Liga MX titans CF Monterrey will represent the North American region as Concacaf Champions League winners; they’ll be joined by Palmeiras (CONMEBOL), Chelsea (UEFA), Al Hilal (AFC), Al Ahly (CAF), AS Pirae (Oceania) and hosts Al Jazira.
Feb. 8-Oct. 29: 2022 Copa CONMEBOL Libertadores
The top club competition in South America, Libertadores is a yearlong pursuit of that continent’s top club honor by 47 top clubs across 10 nations. With fierce pride and passion on the line, not to mention nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in overall prize money, it’s one of the most compelling tournaments in the world. This year’s final is set to take place in Guayaquil, Ecuador.
Feb. 14-23: SheBelieves Cup
Locations, visiting teams TBA
The world-No. 1-ranked US women’s national team welcomes three other elite women’s sides to the States for this annual spring tournament, a key test against top opposition.
Feb. 15-17: Concacaf Champions League begins
Sixteen teams from across the continent kick off North America's top club championship tournament with Round of 16 first-leg action, continuing with second-leg matchups on Feb. 22-24. As previously mentioned, Colorado, Montreal, New England, NYCFC and Seattle will represent MLS this year. Find full schedule details here.
Feb. 16-March 9: UEFA Champions League Round of 16
US and Canadian players are featuring in record numbers in Europe’s top club competition. With the group stage complete, the stakes ratchet up that much further as the elimination phase of the 2021-22 tournament gets underway with eight two-legged ties across the Old Continent.
Feb. 26: MLS regular season begins
Year 27 begins. A busy opening-weekend slate kicks off at 1 pm ET as the Philadelphia Union welcome Minnesota United FC to Subaru Park, the first of 14 matches across Saturday and Sunday. Also of note: debutants Charlotte visit D.C. United at Audi Field for their inaugural match on Saturday at 6 pm ET.
March 3-6: U.S. Soccer Annual General Meeting
The 2022 edition of the U.S. Soccer Federation’s annual gathering of member associations and stakeholders is slated to return to an in-person format in the ATL. The fed’s board of directors will meet on Friday, March 5 and the National Council Meeting is set for the following day, highlighted by the election for USSF president, a position currently held by Cindy Parlow Cone.
March 5: Charlotte FC’s inaugural home match
Bank of America Stadium
The expansionists welcome the LA Galaxy to North Carolina for their home debut at 8 pm ET; CLTFC are aiming for a sellout crowd, which would break the MLS single-game attendance record of 72,548 currently held by Atlanta United.
March 8-10 and 15-17: Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals
“CCL Fever” intensifies as the eight survivors of the Round of 16 contest two-legged, home-and-away ties at locales across North America.
March dates TBA: MLS NEXT Pro debuts
Major League Soccer’s new lower-division professional league, MLS NEXT Pro will complete an integrated player pathway from the MLS NEXT academy competition up to MLS first teams, offering young players and experienced professionals the opportunity to develop and showcase their talents. Twenty-one teams will compete in the inaugural season, each playing a 24-game regular season culminating in an eight-team playoff field capped by a championship final. Full schedules and other details are to be released in the coming weeks.
March 11: USL Championship season begins
The United States’ second-division pro league kicks off its 2022 campaign with 27 member teams, half a dozen of them operated by or affiliated with MLS sides. While the full schedules are slated to be released in January, USL has confirmed a 34-game regular season with Eastern and Western conferences and a single-elimination playoffs format featuring the top seven finishers in each conference. Newcomers Detroit City FC and Monterrey Bay FC will make their USL Championship debuts in 2022.
Spring dates TBA: NISA spring season begins
Another third-tier league, the National Independent Soccer Association, will get its spring season underway with an estimated 13 member clubs competing in a split fall/spring calender and an adjunct amateur/pro-am competition dubbed the NISA Independent Cup.
March 21-30: FIFA men’s international fixture window
Another enormous slate of important national-team matches across the globe. In North America, this will feature matchdays 12, 13 and 14 of the Concacaf Octagonal – the home stretch of the continent’s race for Qatar. Most centrally for MLS clubs, players and audiences: USMNT visit Mexico at mighty Estadio Azteca, host Panama at a yet-to-be-named US venue and travel to face Costa Rica, while CanMNT play at Costa Rica, host Jamaica (location TBA) and visit Panama. When the last final whistle blows on March 30, the Ocho’s top three finishers will advance to the World Cup, while the fourth-place side faces an intercontinental playoff against the winner of Oceania’s qualifying tournament.
March 22-23: 2022 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup begins
The United States’ oldest ongoing national soccer competition will finally return, a welcome sight after both the 2020 and 2021 tournaments were lost to COVID-19. This first round marks the earliest start in the Open Cup’s modern era (considered to begin in 1995), and will feature teams from the “Open Division” like 2021 U.S. Adult Soccer Association National Amateur Cup champs Landsdowne Yonkers FC of New York. Under the format changes approved in 2019 but only now being put into effect, most MLS clubs will enter in the third round, an effort to foster more of the David-vs.-Goliath meetings with lower-division sides that so often produce the “Cupsets” fans of all walks enjoy. The Open Cup dates back to 1914 and is one of the oldest soccer competitions in the world; Atlanta United remain defending champions. The tourney winner will earn a six-figure financial prize, a berth in Concacaf Champions League and have their name engraved on the Dewar Challenge Trophy.
March 31: 72nd FIFA Congress meeting
This grand conclave of the leaders of world soccer’s governing body usually features a full slate of funding and policy deliberations, of which the latest and largest is the concept of a dramatic overhaul of the sport’s calendar built around a controversial shift to a biennial World Cup format. And this year’s Congress is being scheduled in conjunction with…
April 1: Final draw, 2022 FIFA World Cup
One of the biggest signposts in the final countdown to the world’s favorite sporting event, this is where the 32 World Cup teams learn their group-stage assignments and host venues for the tournament. Typically a lavish, star-studded affair featuring a litany of retired star players helping with the lottery-like process of drawing and allocating balls from various pots, the 2022 version takes place in Qatar’s capital and largest city, on the shores of the Persian Gulf. Thanks to pandemic delays, there’s a quirk this year: Two of the 32 finalists will not yet be known, as the intercontinental playoffs don’t take place until June.
April 2: USL League One season begins
The third-tier pro league kicks off its 2022 campaign with 11 member teams, each playing a 30-game regular season. New arrivals are Central Valley Fuego FC, Northern Colorado Hailstorm FC and the Charlotte Independence. The top six finishers will take part in the playoffs in the fall, with the championship final set for the weekend of Nov. 4-6.
Apr. 5-7 and 12-14: Concacaf Champions League semifinals
CCL’s final four face off in two-legged, home-and-away ties.
April dates TBA: Canadian Premier League begins
Canada’s pro league will kick off its fourth season this spring, with member clubs Atletico Ottawa, Cavalry FC (Calgary), FC Edmonton, Forge FC (Hamilton), HFX Wanderers (Halifax), Pacific FC (Langford, BC), Valour FC (Winnipeg) and York United. Pacific FC, led by former Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps defender – and highly-rated recent MLS head coaching candidate – Pa-Modou Kah, are defending champions.
Apr. 26-28 and May 3-5: Concacaf Champions League final
The top club honor in North America will be decided via a two-legged, home-and-away tie.
May 1: Nashville SC christen new stadium
The Boys in Gold welcome the Philadelphia Union for their inaugural match at their new 30,000-seat facility at the Nashville Fairgrounds, the 25th stadium built or renovated for an MLS club.
May 28: UEFA Champions League final
St. Petersburg, Russia
One of the biggest games in the world every year and the summit of European club soccer, this time hosted at Krestovsky Stadium, home of FC Zenit St. Petersburg.
May 30-June 14: FIFA men’s international fixture window
National teams around the world will gather for the first fixture dates of the Northern Hemisphere summer. In North America, this brings the opening phase of the 2022-23 Concacaf Nations League, which concludes in March 2023.
Summer, dates TBA: Leagues Cup
The 2022 rendition of this summer tournament featuring select MLS and Liga MX clubs will feature eight contenders, four from each league, before expanding to include the entirety of both leagues in a dramatically reimagined version in 2023. Club Leon are defending champions and the final will again take place at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.
Summer, dates TBA: 2022 Canadian Championship begins
Every year Canada’s pro and top semi-pro teams compete in this engaging tournament for possession of the Voyageurs Cup, national bragging rights and a CCL berth.
June 13-14: FIFA World Cup 2022 intercontinental playoffs
These showdowns for the final two slots at the World Cup are always fraught with drama and emotion. In this cycle, the fifth-placed national teams from Asia and South America’s qualifying processes will face off, while the fourth-place finisher from Concacaf’s Octagonal will meet Oceania’s top side. There’s a new twist compared to past cycles, however: Instead of two-legged home-and-home playoffs, these four teams will gather in Qatar for single-game, winner-take-all matchups at venues that have yet to be confirmed.
July 8-17: Heineken Rivalry Week
Featuring national broadcasts of 11 matchups across 10 days, this celebration of MLS’s most heated matchups includes clashes between the Philadelphia Union and D.C. United, the LA Galaxy-LAFC El Tráfico, a Seattle Sounders-Portland Timbers Cascadia Cup grudge match, the “Hell is Real” derby between the Columbus Crew and FC Cincinnati, CF Montréal and Toronto FC’s Canadian Classique and the Hudson River Derby, New York Red Bulls vs. New York City FC.
July 9-24: Concacaf W Championship
North America’s peak women’s international tournament and the path to Women’s World Cup qualification, this event is being rejiggered in 2022 with a refreshed name and additional stakes. It will continue to provide automatic WWC berths to its top two finishers, but now the two third-placed nations in its group stage (eight teams in all will take part) advance to intercontinental playoffs for a place at Australia-New Zealand 2024. The winners will also qualify for the 2024 Summer Olympics and the new Concacaf W Gold Cup, set for June 2024, while the second- and third-placed finishers will go into a new Concacaf Olympic playoff. The USWNT are back-to-back defending Concacaf champs, but their rivals from Canada are the reigning Olympic gold medalists; both will be heavily favored to book the two automatic WWC slots.
Aug. 10: 2022 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target
St. Paul, Minnesota
This year MLS’s midseason exhibition showcase and its many surrounding events take place at Allianz Field, the glittering home of Minnesota United. The opponent is yet to be announced. The 2021 edition marked a new format, the best of MLS vs. their Liga MX counterparts.
Aug. 10-28: 2022 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup
A key women’s youth international tournament, the likes of which many were shelved or canceled during the pandemic. This one is likely to include the US and/or Canada among its 16 participating national teams, depending on the results of Concacaf’s qualifying tournament in February and March.
August/September, details TBA: 2022 Campeones Cup
This year’s supercup-style clash between the champions of MLS and Liga MX’s Campeon de Campeones will feature New York City FC vs. the winner of the annual meeting between the fall and spring season champs of the Mexican top flight.
Sept. 6-7 or 13-14: 2022 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final
The decisive match for the United States’ oldest and most beloved cup competition.
Sept. 19-27: FIFA men’s international fixture window
National teams may gather full-strength squads to play as many as two matches during this period, which could be used for tune-up friendlies by World Cup 2022 participants who don’t have other obligations. In North America, Concacaf Nations League play will take place.
October 9: Decision Day
The MLS regular season concludes in dramatic fashion with synchronized kickoffs of games across the Eastern and Western Conferences, with final places in the standings and the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs on the line.
October/November dates TBA: Audi MLS Cup Playoffs
The final sprint to MLS Cup. Format and schedule to be announced in the months to come.
October dates TBA: 2022 NWSL playoffs
The NWSL season concludes with its top six finishers vying for the league title, currently held by the Washington Spirit. The championship game will take place the weekend of Oct. 28.
Nov. 5: 2022 MLS Cup
The league’s new champions will be crowned, unless holders NYCFC claim the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy again. The match will be held at the home ground of the finalist with the superior regular-season points total; it's also happening a month earlier than the past two editions in order to conclude the campaign in time for the World Cup.
Mid-November dates TBA: NCAA Division I tournament selection shows
College soccer’s version of March Madness, the NCAA tournaments unfold in autumn after the regular season and conference tournaments, with the men’s version generally a week behind the women’s. The respective fields – 48 teams on the men’s side, 64 on the women’s, a mixture of automatic and at-large berths – are announced on these dates, one day after the conclusion of the regular season, charting the path to the College Cup.
Nov. 21-Dec. 18: 2022 FIFA World Cup
Thirty-two national teams from across the globe will converge on the small Gulf state for the world’s biggest sporting event, which this year is taking place in autumn rather than its usual June-July timeframe in order to avoid the Middle East’s scorching summer temperatures. The host nation is reportedly spending more than $200 billion to build venues and infrastructure for this tournament, which will take place at eight stadiums in and around Doha.
December dates TBA: 2022 Men’s and Women’s College Cup
The NCAA soccer season reaches its crescendo as the Division I men’s and women’s tournaments’ final four on each side will gather on separate weekends at WakeMed Soccer Park, home of North Carolina FC and the North Carolina Courage, to decide who will be crowned D1 national champions. Clemson are defending men’s champs and Florida State are defending women’s champs.