World Cup 2022 schedule change: How Qatar vs Ecuador, opening ceremony plans impact USA and England

The 2022 FIFA World Cup schedule was pushed back in April as the groups were set. Organizers took time after the group draw to break down the matchups and settle on a calendar optimized for fan travel and TV slots around the world.

The final fixture schedule drawn up after the draw caused a stir when it didn’t feature a traditional opening game with hosts Qatar. Instead, Monday, November 21, the opening game was to be played between Qatar’s Group A rivals Senegal and the Netherlands.

The hosts have played in the opening match of every World Cup since 2006, replacing the previous tradition of the defending champions playing in the opening match.

However, FIFA announced a schedule change on Thursday, with the tournament opener in Qatar becoming an opening game in its own right, accompanied by the pomp and circumstance of a formal opening ceremony.

ESPN’s Fernando Palomo was the first to report the news via Twitter on August 9th. A translation of his post reads:

I understand that FIFA rates the start of the World Cup on November 20th with an opening ceremony and a single game: Qatar vs. Ecuador. It’s still taking shape, but they’re thinking about it.

This was officially announced on August 11, rescheduling Qatar’s opening Group A game against Ecuador from Monday November 21 to Sunday November 20. The change postpones the start of the tournament by one day and changes the other Group A match between Senegal and the Netherlands to a new time slot on November 21.

According to the reports, the organizers of the 2022 World Cup submitted a letter to FIFA asking for the schedule to be changed, which was then approved by a board of FIFA executives including President Gianni Infantino and the heads of all six FIFA confederations had to become. The official announcement of the timetable changes signals that the expected approval has been granted.

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The official World Cup schedule is changing

The new schedule, announced in mid-August, sees the tournament taking place on November 20 instead of November 21.

“The opening match and ceremony of this year’s tournament at Al Bayt Stadium has been brought forward by one day today, following a unanimous decision by the FIFA Council Presidency,” FIFA said in its official announcement of the schedule change.

The changes will affect all four Group A teams. The Qatar-Ecuador game date has been postponed, as has the kick-off time for the other Group A game between Senegal and the Netherlands.

The opening ceremonies have also been brought forward a day and will take place on November 20 ahead of the Qatar-Ecuador game.

New revised World Cup opening schedule

date Fit time
BST/ET
Stadion
Sun, Nov 20 Group A: Qatar – Ecuador 19:00 / 14:00 Al Bayt
Mon, Nov 21 Group B: England vs. Iran 13:00 / 08:00 Khalifa Int’l
Mon, Nov 21 Group A: Senegal vs. Netherlands 16:00 / 11:00 Al Thumama
Mon, Nov 21 Group B: USA vs Wales 19:00 / 14:00 Ahmad bin Ali

Previous World Cup opening schedule

date Fit time
BST/ET
Stadion
Mon, Nov 21 Group A: Senegal vs. Netherlands 10:00 / 05:00 Al Thumama
Mon, Nov 21 Group B: England vs. Iran 13:00 / 08:00 Khalifa Int’l
Mon, Nov 21 Group A: Qatar – Ecuador 16:00 / 11:00 Al Bayt
Mon, Nov 21 Group B: USA vs Wales 19:00 / 14:00 Ahmad bin Ali

How would World Cup schedule changes affect England and USA?

The fixture change has not directly impacted the US national team or England as their opening games remain scheduled for their original kick-off times.

The only game that would be affected outside of Qatar’s opening game would be the other Group A game on November 21 between Senegal and the Netherlands. Instead of occupying an early time slot, it would be moved to the window vacated by the Qatar v Ecuador game.

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However, there will likely be ticketing issues stemming from the schedule changes affecting USMNT and Wales fans with tickets to see their teams in person at the World Cup.

Fans are not allowed to buy tickets for matches in back-to-back time slots as it would be physically impossible to attend both matches. This measure has been in effect since the start of World Cup ticket sales.

With the time for the Senegal-Netherlands game being moved right ahead of the USA-Wales game, fans who have already bought tickets to see both would be negatively impacted.

This fan quoted by Tariq Panja of The New York Times did just that as the original schedule called for seven hours between the end of the Senegal vs Netherlands game and the start of the USA vs Wales game. That gap has been reduced to just one hour given the changes they schedule as back-to-back games.

FIFA vaguely acknowledged this issue in the official release of the news, but gave no details on how the situation would be resolved.

“That [tickets] The release period previously decided and set out in the Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players remains unchanged and will start on November 14, 2022,” FIFA said. “Ticket holders will be duly notified via email that the relevant games have been rescheduled and their tickets will remain valid regardless of the new date/time. In addition, FIFA will try to resolve any issues arising from this change on a case-by-case basis.”

MORE: Full fixture list, schedule and preview for World Cup Group A | Group B

Other impacts of the reported WM schedule change

The new changes to the World Cup schedule also create a slightly tighter deadline for players from Qatar and Ecuador to report to their national teams on Monday 14 November. The proposed move from November 21 to November 20 allows for one day less preparation.

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This will affect players like Ecuadorian striker Enner Valencia, whose last club game with Fenerbahce before the World Cup is scheduled for November 13. This leaves only seven days between his last club game and his first World Cup game in Qatar.

Other Ecuadorians playing in Europe whose preparation for the tournament will be affected include Moises Caciedo (Brighton), Carlos Gruezo (Augsburg) and Pervis Estupinan (Villarreal).

The host country is likely to be less affected by the change as the Qatar national team is made up almost entirely of domestically based players from the local Qatar Stars League, which is likely to be flexible in changing the league schedule to support national team travel and training. So far only seven of the 22 game days of the Star League have been scheduled.

Why is FIFA considering changes to the World Cup schedule?

According to an Aug. 10 report by Tariq Panja of The New York Times, the move was proposed to see Qatar continue the tradition of the host country opening the World Cup.

The report contained part of the letter sent to FIFA, which was made available to the New York Times.

“It is a long-standing tradition to mark the start of the FIFA World Cup with an opening ceremony to mark the first match of either the hosts or the defending champions,” the letter reads, “a factor that is seen as having significant value from a ceremonial, cultural and commercial point of view.”

FIFA’s official release reflected this sentiment. “The move ensures the continuation of a longstanding tradition of marking the start of the FIFA World Cup with an opening ceremony to mark the first match with either the hosts or the holders,” said FIFA. “The decision followed a competitive and operational impact assessment, as well as a thorough process of consultation and agreement with key stakeholders and the host country.”

It’s still unclear why Qatar shouldn’t appear in a standalone opening game of the World Cup at all.

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