(ATR) World Football's governing body is adapting its qualification procedures to match its expanded 48-team World Cup.
The 2026 World Cup will feature 12 more teams than ever before following FIFA president Gianni Infantino’s push to increase revenues and prominence of the event. The expansion calls for an update to the somewhat convoluted qualification procedure currently in place.
Outside of expanding quotas for each of the six continental confederations, the proposal outlined on March 30 also creates a six-team tournament that would determine the final two teams to enter World Cup.
This new mini-tournament would be held in the host country a year prior to the World Cup and serve as a test event, potentially eliminating the need for the current Confederations Cup.
The future of the tournament that has historically served as a test event for the World Cup was already in doubt with 2022 hosts Qatar opting for a Club World Cup event in November 2021 instead of the Confederations Cup. The FIFA Confederations Cup could host its last matches this June and July, a year ahead of the Russia 2018 World Cup.
The proposal brings the European quota up three to 16 teams and eliminates half-qualification spots for South America, North and Central America, Asia and Oceania. The two confederations from the Americas will now receive six entries each with Asia getting eight and Oceania one. Africa increases its quota to nine teams.
The final two spots in the World Cup will be decided by the six-team tournament. Each continental confederation besides UEFA will send one team to the tournament along with an additional team from the confederation of the World Cup hosts.
The two best teams will be seeded based on their world ranking and will await the winners of knockout matches between the four unseeded teams. The winners of the second matches will earn World Cup berths.
Before going into effect, these proposals must be ratified by the FIFA Council at its meeting May 9 in Manama, Bahrain. The council meeting will be followed by the FIFA Congress two days later.
Written by Kevin Nutley
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