Plenty of berths in expanded World Cup will keep everyone happy

Gianni Infantino ran for FIFA president on a platform that included an expansion of the World Cup. Other than more money -- also on the Infantino platform -- nothing gets the attention of FIFA members more than increased World Cup spots.

Now that Infantino has won and pushed through an expanded World Cup from 32 to 48 teams, confederations are lining up to make their demands.

From 32 teams in 2018 and 2022 to 48 teams in 2026, that means an increase of 50 percent. But UEFA, the European confederation, is making it easy.

Europe is only asking to have its allotment of 14 teams (including host Russia) in 2018 increased by two to 16 teams. The caveat: UEFA wants all European teams separated in the group stage so they all have a shot at reaching the 32-team second round when the knockout phase begins.

That leaves 32 spots for the other five confederations, who currently share 18, to divvy among themselves.

The Confederation of African Football is holding a summit in Johannesburg, where the primary topic of conversation is the upcoming CAF election that could unseat longtime president Issa Hayatou, but Africa leaders are also pressing Infantino on the issue of the World Cup.

“All associations back the idea to expand the World Cup," South African Danny Jordaan told Reuters, "and there is the hope that Africa can have 10 places in future."

That would be double the number of berths Africa currently has. At first blush, that would be wishful thinking, given the performance of the five African teams at the 2014 World Cup, where where they won three of 17 games.

But there will be plenty of spots to go around among the other four confederations that currently share 13 berths:

4.5 Asia
4.5 Conmebol
3.5 Concacaf
0.5 Oceania

If Europe gets 16 and Africa 10, the other four confederations would share 22 berths, an increase of nine, and look something like this:

8.0 Asia
7.0 Conmebol
6.0 Concacaf
1.0 Oceania

Any more than seven berths makes qualifying Conmebol basically meaningless, and six berths does away with the concept of the Hexagonal in Concacaf.

Asia, which has 47 members, might clamor for more than eight spots -- double like Africa? -- but its record at the 2014 World Cup was even worse than Africa's. The four teams were all eliminated in the first round, having combined for three ties and nine losses in 12 games.
14 comments about "Plenty of berths in expanded World Cup will keep everyone happy".
  1. R2 Dad, February 23, 2017 at 12:18 a.m.

    No Hex? Is that good or bad? Could give CONCACAF teams the opportunity to play friendlies against SA/European/African teams. I suspect fewer national team call-ups would be welcome by clubs. No one would begrudge additional confederation slots to these other regions--the real issue is how are the tables going to be structured? If there are teams playing for a draw at any point this whole experiment will be a bust.

  2. Gus Keri, February 23, 2017 at 8:22 a.m.

    CONCACAF could have two Hex's. three teams qualify from each Hex.

  3. Phil Love, February 23, 2017 at 8:49 a.m.

    "Keeps everyone happy"? I'm not happy.

  4. Fire Paul Gardner Now, February 23, 2017 at 9:58 a.m.

    The performance of Asian teams at recent world cups (other than 2002) has been pathetic. And now they'll have 8 spots? 10 African countries? Do we really need to see Burkina Faso and Gabon? Look at the next 16 teams that would have got in in 2014 if there had been 48 spots. It isn't an impressive list.

  5. James Hardern, February 23, 2017 at 9:59 a.m.

    I don't like this either. First, 48 teams is too many - the tournament will feel very watered down. Second, three-team groups means only two guaranteed games - that sucks for fans. Also means that randomness of competition is increased, meaning a greater liklihood of a number of poor teams getting thru to the knockouts. Last, the additional knockout round means more matches decided by extra times and penalties. I don't consider any of these developments to be an improvement. This is a very sad time for the World Cup.

  6. Kent James replied, February 23, 2017 at 12:40 p.m.

    In addition to the problems you cite, you can add that it will make much of qualifying meaningless. This is not a good move.

  7. Craig Cummings, February 23, 2017 at 11:23 p.m.

    If canada can make the world cup, I am good with 48 teams. I am a So Cal guy O C, but my mother is from canada and half my family still lives there. You always need to support your mother. Good luck up noeth.

  8. Craig Cummings, February 23, 2017 at 11:26 p.m.

    I meant north

  9. Wooden Ships, February 24, 2017 at 12:54 p.m.

    Russia, Qatar, 48 teams-FIFA hasn't trended to my liking for awhile now. I came to accept/agree when we went from 24 to 32, I doubt I will ultimately agree with this.

  10. R2 Dad, February 25, 2017 at 5:31 p.m.

    oddly, I think the biggest problem will be getting enough high-level referees. yes, increase to 48 but don't make the officials proportional--just take the highest quality refs no matter where they're from.

  11. Daniel Clifton, February 26, 2017 at 11:26 a.m.

    I don't like the 3 team groups. That means only 2 games guaranteed. Qualifying will also be watered down big time. Oh well, life goes on.

  12. Nick Daverese, February 27, 2017 at 9:58 a.m.

    Well it means more income for FIFA. But it waters down the tournament. Play against inferior competition in the first round. Are you going to use goal differential as a tie breaker. Hey then you will definitely see more scoring. Maybe 10-0 games the average fan will love to see that. Except the losing teams fans.

  13. Fajkus Rules, March 1, 2017 at 9:42 a.m.

    48 team World cup is no different than a 40 team Premier League or 100 team Development Academy -- it waters down talent and play, it doesn't raise it. Instead they should have what would be the equivalent of a Division 2 World Cup on a 4 year cycle 2 years off from the Full World Cup. Division 2 WC would feature teams who have not ever won a full WC and have populations that are smaller than the top 40 countries in population. 24 teams in each event, only the top half of countries qualifying for the Div 2 WC would go into streamlined qualifying along with the 40 largest countries & previous WC winners for the full WC.

  14. charles davenport, March 1, 2017 at 5:31 p.m.

    48 teams? ridiculous. I won't be watching (boycotting) Qutar slave labor world cup anyway.

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