Fifa has announced its proposed allocation of places for the 48-team 2026 World Cup and revealed that a six-nation play‑off could be used to determine the last two spots.
Sixteen direct slots are proposed for European teams at the expanded tournament, which is the quota Uefa had sought. The recommendations will be submitted to be approved by the Fifa council in May.
The plan proposed by Gianni Infantino, Fifa’s president, to expand the World Cup from 32 to 48 countries was backed unanimously by the council in January. The finals tournament, the format of which has been unchanged since 1998, is now set to feature 16 groups of three teams.
Fifa stated: “The recommendation will now be submitted for the ratification of the Fifa council, whose next meeting is scheduled for 9 May in Manama, Bahrain, two days prior to the 67th Fifa congress.”
Infantino and the presidents of each of the six confederations convened on Thursday at Fifa’s headquarters in Zurich and agreed on the proposed slot allocation.
As well as Europe’s quota being increased by three places to 16, it has been recommended that there are nine spots for teams from Africa, eight for Asia, six for South America, six for North and Central America and the Caribbean, and one for Oceania. The host country will still qualify automatically, with their place being taken from the quota of their confederation.
Fifa’s statement, outlining the plans, added: “In the event of co-hosting, the number of host countries to qualify automatically would be decided by the Fifa council.”
The proposed play-off will feature one team from each confederation with the exception of Uefa, plus one from the host nation’s confederation, with two of the teams being seeded based on the world rankings.
The unseeded teams will be involved in a two-match first round, with the two winners from that then facing a seeded team each for a World Cup berth. The play-off will be contested in the same country as the World Cup and used as a test event, and Fifa specified November 2025 as the likely month in which it would be played.
Aleksander Ceferin, the Uefa president, said in a statement that he was “satisfied” with the proposal. “We feel that Uefa will be fairly represented with a total of 16 national associations competing in the new format of the World Cup,” he said.