As the World Cup prepares to expand from 32 teams to 48 in 2026, the jockeying and politicking for those extra 16 spots between the different confederations of the world has now begun. UEFA, being the most powerful of them all and having the best teams in the world (mostly), has considerable sway. In the current 32 team format, they have 13 teams qualify for the World Cup.
In 2026, they want 16 teams to qualify, or a third of the field. They also want those teams to not have to play each other in the initial three-team group stage.
UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin called the proposal “realistic”, and he wants to see every European team make it to the now expanded 32 team knockout stage. While the latter portion of the statement seems a bit unrealistic, it’s not unrealistic at all for UEFA to want their teams to compromise a third of the tournament’s field, especially when now they compose well over a third of the field.
Ceferin added the following statements.
“We can push and be outvoted, but we think it is realistic to ask for 16 slots at least, plus another condition that each European team is in different groups.
“Then if it is true that we are so good, that quality is on our side, I think all 16 can qualify.”
A European nation has made the final of every World Cup since 1950, and has been champion in five out of the last seven tournaments. And in a 48 team World Cup, somehow it seems that 16 teams from Europe seems to under-represent how good the continent has become in quality of teams beneath the top tier nations.
FIFA will decide on the allocations for each confederation in the expanded World Cup in May.