ZURICH: All football regions will see their World Cup slots increased when the tournament expands to 48 teams in 2026, with Africa the biggest winner, according to FIFA recommendations released Thursday.
The plan to expand the competition beyond its current 32-team format, which is subject to approval at FIFA’s May Congress in Bahrain, guarantees Africa nine places, marking an increase of four.
Asia, currently guaranteed between four and five World Cup entries, will get eight slots, while European confederation UEFA gets a boost from 13 to 16.
The confederation for North, Central America and the Caribbean (CONCACAF) will have six places, above its current level of between three and four.
South America (CONMEBOL), which now has between four and five slots, will get six, according to the recommendations from FIFA’s ruling council.
Oceana, which has not been guaranteed an entry in past World Cups, will be assured one spot.
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin declared his federation “satisfied” with the plan.
“We feel that UEFA will be fairly represented with a total of 16 national associations competing in the new format of the World Cup,” he said.
“We look forward to this proposal being ratified by the FIFA Council in Bahrain on May 9.”
The January 10 decision to expand the World Cup marked a major victory for FIFA President Gianni Infantino, who has been on the job for just over a year.
He boasted at the time that under the new format more countries “will have the chance to dream” and that a larger tournament will reflect “the World Cup of the 21st Century”.
FIFA’s decision to expand the tournament infuriated many in the football world, with some branding it a money grab and a blatant bid by Infantino to win favour among developing world federations who helped elect him.