Football

FIFA President Gianni Infantino has spearheaded the controversial expansion of the World Cup from 32 to 48 nations from the 2026 tournament ©Getty Images

FIFA has recommended a new six-team play-off qualification tournament be staged to decide the final two nations at the expanded 48-team World Cup as part of their proposed allocation of the additional places.

The Bureau of the FIFA Council announced the event would feature one nation from each of the Confederations, except UEFA, and one additional country from the host region.

The mini-tournament is set to be held in November 2025, should it be approved by the Council at its next meeting on May 9, and will be used as a test event for the World Cup, starting from 2026.

FIFA has confirmed the two highest-ranked nations in the qualification competition would be seeded and would go up against the the winners of the first two knock-out games involving the four unseeded teams.

World football’s governing body has also revealed the split for the direct places.

They have met UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin’s demand for 16 European spots — a third of the number of countries at the tournament — while other Confederations have also been granted increases in their previous allocations.

The Oceania Football Confederation will receive an automatic slot, with the winners of their qualification event currently having to play-off against a side from another region in order to secure a World Cup place.

The Asian Football Confederation will receive eight berths, one less than they were originally anticipating, with the Confederation of African Football given nine, also a place lower than they had hoped for.

The Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football and the South American Football Confederation ere each given six places.

The host nation’s place would be taken from the quota of their respective Confederation.

“In the event of co-hosting, the number of host countries to qualify automatically would be decided by the FIFA Council,” a FIFA statement read.

“FIFA, the Confederations and the Member Associations engaged in a consultation process, which resulted in the proposal recommended by the Bureau of the Council.”

FIFA President Gianni Infantino, who spearheaded the expansion of the World Cup, recently claimed a “good compromise” would be reached regarding the extra places.

The growth of the World Cup from 32 to 48 nations was officially approved by FIFA’s ruling Council during a meeting in Zurich in January.

Under the new format, the 48 teams will be split into 16 groups of three, with the top two progressing to the 32-nation knock-out round.

It sparked concerns that teams playing in the final group matches could collude to get the right result to ensure they reach the next phase.

AP

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