LONDON - FIFA on Thursday proposed to allocate eight slots for Asia at the 2026 World Cup, an increase from the current 4.5 for the continent when the field expands from 32 to 48.
The plan by FIFA president Gianni Infantino and his counterparts from six confederations, to be ratified by the FIFA Council on May 9 in Bahrain, would also see the figures jump for Africa (five to nine) and North, Central America and Caribbean (3.5 to six).
Asia, which currently has just two teams, Iran and South Korea, in the top 48 of the FIFA rankings, with Japan languishing in 51st, is one of the biggest beneficiaries from the proposed change as it could have as many as nine teams — the last through a new playoff — at the prestigious event.
“I’ve been insisting the slots for Asia be increased given its soccer population and the ratio of sponsors it accounts for in the world,” JFA president Kozo Tashima said.
“We should be satisfied with eight berths. Now we have to think about how to strengthen Asia as a whole.”
The proposal guarantees at least a place for each continent as Oceania, currently with 0.5 berth, was given one slot, but the increase was marginal for powerhouses Europe (13 to 16) and South America (4.5 to six).
The hosts will continue to qualify automatically and their slot will be taken from their confederation’s quota. In the event of co-hosting, the number of automatically qualified host countries would be decided by the FIFA Council.