The All Whites' road to the 2022 Football World Cup will go through North America, after FIFA announced its qualifying playoff draw on Saturday.
Earlier this month, FIFA announced the playoffs will be single-leg matches at a neutral venue which ended a long tradition of home-and-away contests, which have produced some memorable occasions in New Zealand and been lucrative for NZF, with sold-out games against Bahrain (2009), Mexico (2013) and Peru (2017).
FIFA's move was pre-empted by the fixture congestion created by the Covid-19 pandemic, along with the ongoing uncertainty around international travel.
This morning's draw means that the top Oceania team after regular World Cup qualifying matches will play the fourth-best side from North America's CONCACAF bracket.
That group of teams includes the likes of the United States, Mexico, Canada, Costa Rica and Honduras - with Costa Rica currently ranked as the fourth-best of that list.
To put their ranking in perspective, the All Whites are currently ranked 110th in the world, while Costa Rica lie in 49th place.
The North America vs Oceania playoff match is scheduled to take place in Qatar on June 14, 2022.
The Oceania qualifiers will also take place in Qatar, in March, giving the side a chance to prepare for what will be challenging conditions in the middle eastern heat.
The format for those matches is set to be finalised on Monday, ahead of a draw at FIFA headquarters in Zürich on Tuesday morning.
The All Whites will go into the Oceania playoffs as favourites, as they have on each of the three occasions since Australia left the region for Asia in 2006.
New Zealand Football CEO Andrew Pragnell says having some certainty around the upcoming schedule is a big relief to the organisation.
"Should we qualify from the OFC region, it is great to finally know which confederation we will be facing.
"We share fans disappointment that the change in competition structure means we won't have a home game but now can start planning to reach our ultimate goal of qualifying for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar next year."
Meanwhile All Whites head coach Danny Hay says the team is on track to put up a strong challenge for that contested spot.
"Whichever team we get from Concacaf we know they will be strong as they have to be at this level.
"We still have work to do to qualify for the intercontinental playoff but, as we have shown in the previous two international windows, we are making progress both on and off the pitch.
"It is now our job to continue to build on what we have done this year and take that momentum into 2022 as we look to qualify for Qatar."
Elsewhere in the draw, European champion Italy and Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal are drawn in the same bracket, meaning at least one of them will miss next year's tournament in Qatar.
Italy will face North Macedonia at home in a playoff semifinal next March, and the winner will play away at either Portugal or Turkey for a spot in the World Cup.
Italy failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup — losing in the playoffs to Sweden — and now will likely have to beat Ronaldo and Portugal to avoid missing the tournament for a second straight time. Portugal has always qualified during Ronaldo's career. He first played at the 2006 World Cup.
Also in the 12-team draw, Scotland will face Ukraine at home, and the winner will play at Wales or Austria in the final of their bracket.
Russia will host Poland for the right to face Sweden or the Czech Republic in their bracket final. Russia or Poland will host the final.
The six playoff semifinals will be played as single-leg elimination games March 24. The three finals are played five days later.
The three winners will complete Europe's entry of 13 nations in the 32-team lineup in Qatar.
FIFA will make the tournament draw on April 1 in Doha.
The playoffs feature the 10 teams who finished second in their qualifying groups along with two teams — Austria and the Czechs — who won Nations League groups last year.
- with AP