When FIFA voted in January to change the format of soccer’s World Cup starting from 2026, it was unclear how the increase in participating nations, from 32 to 48, would affect slot allocations to the six geographic confederations that make up the sport’s governing body. But now the picture is much clearer.
Africa appears to be the big winner. The Bureau of the FIFA Council, which consists of the FIFA president and heads of the six confederations, has proposed giving four extra slots to the continent—the biggest increase for any confederation. Asia, with 3.5 extra slots, will receive the next-highest increase.
While it is recommended to get only three additional slots, bringing its total allotment to 16, Europe will remain the most represented continent at the World Cup. There’s also a boost for Oceania: From 2026, that confederation will get an automatic slot at World Cup events. In the past, teams from Oceania needed to qualify through playoffs against typically stronger teams from other confederations. Without a guaranteed slot, teams from the Oceania confederation have appeared only four times at the World Cup.
The four extra slots recommended for Africa is one less than the continent hoped for. “All associations back the idea to expand the World Cup, and there is the hope that Africa can have 10 places in future,” Danny Jordaan, South Africa’s Football Association chief, was quoted by Reuters as saying last month, after meetings between Africa’s soccer association bosses and FIFA president Gianni Infantino.
Africa and Asia were always likely to see the biggest increase in slots under the new format of the World Cup. Both confederations comprise the largest voting blocs in FIFA and, as a result, are particularly important during FIFA’s presidential elections, in which candidates require two-thirds of the votes on the first ballot to win.
Though already approved by FIFA and the presidents of each confederation, the proposed slot increases need to be ratified by the FIFA Council at its next meeting on May 9 in Bahrain.