Fifa is reportedly planning to expand the World Cup to 40 participating teams, with the potential expansion to be discussed today.
The proposal is designed to increase parity between European countries and the rest of world in World Cup participation and as such will appeal to the majority of the 209 FIFA member countries.
The game’s governing body will discuss the proposal at an executive committee meeting today, with the change hoping to appeal to the majority of the 209 members.
There is a collective feeling that European football and Uefa have too many qualification berths for the World Cup, with the scope for increasing the number of participating teams allowing more nations from across the world to take part and potentially succeed.
The decision to increase the number of qualifying places is being seen as a sweetener to get the majority of the Fifa countries on board with other reforms and governance issues that are also going to be voted on.
With five candidates vying for the FIFA presidency in 2016, increasing World Cup participation is a campaign objective for all of them considering they need global support in order to win votes in next year’s elections.
Currently there are 14 places at the 2018 World Cup in Russia for Uefa-qualified nations, including the hosts.
Currently, Africa will have five spots at the competition, with four-and-a-half for Asia and South America (the fifth-ranked side in qualifying from each continent are entered in a playoff).
North and Central America (CONCACAF) have three and half places, with the fourth ranked side entered in a playoff fixture with the top ranked side from Oceania.
If the motion to increase the amount of teams is passed it will be the second increase in participating nations, after the number was boosted from 24 to 32 in 1994. The expected increases will most likely result in guaranteed participation for Oceania and increased participation for the rest of the continents. It remains to be seen whether Europe will get an increase in their allocation, but even then their overall % in terms of representation at the World Cup will fall to 40% if not less.
The reforms in the structure of the game continue to be discussed despite the fact that Fifa has been hit with a corruption scandal that has plagued the sport right to its core.
The latest black mark on football saw two more Fifa officials arrested in Zurich today, with scope for further allegations against senior members of the organisation.