Russia 2018: FIFA Unveils Proposal for 48-Team World Cup

FIFA is proposing a six-nation play-off tournament to decide the last two slots at the 48-team World Cup in 2026.

Football’s world governing body has revealed its plans for how the 48 places will be allocated, with 16 European teams set to qualify.

The proposal — approved by FIFA’s president and his counterparts at the six confederations — is expected to be ratified by the FIFA Council on May 9.

FIFA members voted in January to expand the World Cup from 32 to 48 teams.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said he was “satisfied’’ with the proposals and that European nations would be “fairly represented’’.

All six confederations will have at least one team in the expanded tournament, with no inter-confederation play-offs prior to the play-off tournament.

The World Cup hosts will still qualify automatically, with their slot taken from their confederation’s quota.

The recommended places for each confederation are:

  • Africa – 9 (up from 5)

  • Asia – 8 (up from 4 or 5)

  • Europe – 16 (up from 13)

  • North, Central America and Caribbean – 6 (up from 3 or 4)

  • Oceania – 1 (from 0 or 1)

  • South America – 6 (up from 4 or 5)


Should the proposals be ratified, as expected, it will consist of one team from each confederation except UEFA, with the final team taken from the confederation of the host country.

Two teams will be seeded based on their FIFA ranking.

They will then face the winners of two knockout games involving the four unseeded teams, with the prize a place in the World Cup.

The play-off will be played in the World Cup’s host country, with November 2025 suggested as a possible date for the 2026 qualifying play-off.

It will also double as a test event for the main tournament.

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