In March 2011, following news that CONCACAF would not receive four spots in the 2014 World Cup, officials within CONCACAF indicated that the first format proposed would be revised. Several days later, officials within CONCACAF announced the qualifying format they would present to FIFA. The proposed format, which was subsequently accepted by FIFA, consists of 4 stages.
Round One. Teams ranked 26–35 will play-off to reduce the number of entrants to 30.
Round Two. 6 groups of 4 teams. This round includes the 5 qualifiers from the preliminary round plus teams ranked 7–25. The top team in each group advances to the next stage.
Round Three (Semifinal round). 3 groups of 4. Teams ranked 1–6 face off against the 6 group winners from the previous round. The top two in each group advance.
Round Four (Hexagonal). The top two teams in each group from the semifinal round compete in one group of 6. The top three teams advance to the World Cup finals, while the 4th place team advances to an intercontinental play-off.
All 35 FIFA-affiliated national teams from CONCACAF entered qualification. The seeding – used to draw the first three rounds of the qualifiers – was based on the FIFA World Rankings of March 2011. (World rankings shown in parentheses)
The first round of the CONCACAF qualifiers saw the bottom 10 teams being paired up into five home-and-away series, with the highest ranked team facing the lowest ranked team and so on. The winners of these series proceeded to the second round.
The matchups were announced by FIFA on 26 April 2011. Early indications were that the matches would be played on 3 and 7 June 2011; However, the matches were postponed to scattered days in June and July, between 15 June and 17 July. The 5 winners (in bold, below) advanced to the second round of the CONCACAF qualifiers: Belize, Dominican Republic, U.S. Virgin Islands, Saint Lucia, and the Bahamas.
The two wins for the U.S. Virgin Islands were their first two ever in World Cup play, with their only other win prior to this coming in 1998.
In the second round, the teams ranked 7–25 were joined by the 5 winners from the first round. These teams were drawn into six groups of four teams, at the World Cup Preliminary Draw at the Marina da Glória in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on 30 July 2011. The matches were played from 2 September to 15 November 2011.
The top team from each group advanced to the third round.
Teams were seeded into four pots – designated Pots 4 to 7 in the draw. Pot 4 included teams ranked 7–12, Pot 5 teams ranked 13–18, Pot 6 teams ranked 19–24, and Pot 7 the team ranked 25 along with the 5 first round winners.
The third round saw the top 6 seeds joined by the 6 group winners from the second round. These teams were drawn into three groups of four teams, at the World Cup Preliminary Draw at the Marina da Glória in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on 30 July 2011. These matches were played from 8 June to 16 October 2012.
The top two teams from each group advanced to the fourth round.
As the draw for the third round was held before the previous matches were held, only the six teams with byes to the round were known at the time of the draw. Teams were seeded into three pots, with Pot 1 containing the top 3 seeds, Pot 2 seeds 4 to 6, and Pot 3 the 6 group winners from the second round. Each third round group contains one team from Pot 1, one team from Pot 2 and two teams from Pot 3.
In the fourth round, the three group winners and three runners-up from the third round competed in a double round robin, including a home and away match against the other five teams between 6 February and 15 October 2013. The round is informally referred to as the 'Hexagonal' or just 'The Hex'. The draw for 'The Hex' was conducted by FIFA on 7 November 2012.
The top three teams qualified directly for the 2014 FIFA World Cup finals, while the fourth-placed team will play a home-away series against New Zealand, the winner of Oceania. Teams are ranked first by total points in all games, then, if tied, by best goal differential in all games, then by total goals in all games. If still tied, the same criteria are applied to games among the tied teams.
The winner of the OFC qualification tournament, New Zealand, played against CONCACAF's fourth-placed team, Mexico, in a home-and-away play-off. Mexico, the winner of this play-off, qualified for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
The first leg was played on 13 November 2013 in Mexico, and the second leg was played on 20 November 2013.