World Cup set to expand to 40 teams from 2026

Expansion an attempt to appeal to 209 Fifa members who feel Uefa have too many places

The World Cup is on the verge of being expanded to 40 teams from 2026 following discussions among the members of Fifa’s crisis-hit executive committee, the Guardian has learned.

The committee are scheduled to discuss the dramatic expansion at a meeting on Thursday about a wider reform package – just hours after two more senior members were arrested in the lobby of the Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich.

The World Cup change is being seen as an attempt to appeal to the majority of the 209 Fifa members who feel Uefa currently has too many spots at the 32-team tournament.

The World Cup was expanded from 24 teams to 32 in 1994, and the further expansion would allow Fifa to increase the number of slots available to those outside Europe.


Uefa will have 14 places at the next World Cup in Russia, up to 10 more than the next best-represented confederation. The Oceania Football Confederation currently has no guaranteed place.

At present Africa has five places, Asia four and a half, Europe 13, North and Central America three and a half, South America four and a half, Oceania half a place and one goes to the host.

The move is likely to be voted on at Thursday's meeting despite the dramatic arrests of the Concacaf president, Alfredo Hawit of Honduras, and the Conmebol president, Juan Ángel Napout of Paraguay. The New York Times quoted law enforcement officials as saying up to 12 people could be charged.

Expanding the World Cup is likely to be offered to the 209 Fifa member associations as a sweetener to also pass other sweeping reforms such as term limits and other governance reforms.

The move is likely to be backed by most of the five candidates standing to replace the currently suspended Sepp Blatter as Fifa president in February in the belief it will improve their chances of winning votes.

(Guardian service)