The South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) on Thursday asked FIFA to bring forward plans to expand the World Cup to 48 teams in time for the 2022 tournament in Qatar.
The competition is due to be enlarged from 32 teams to 48 in time for the 2026 finals, which will be awarded either to Morocco or a joint North American bid from the United States, Mexico and Canada.
However, CONMEBOL president Alejandro Dominguez handed over a letter at the organisation’s congress in Buenos Aires to FIFA president Gianni Infantino, signed by the heads of the 10 South American federations, urging the early expansion.
“We are asking that the 2022 World Cup be played with 48 teams,” Dominguez said.
Five CONMEBOL teams — Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Colombia and Peru — will go to this year’s World Cup in Russia.
Under the existing qualifying system, four South American countries qualify automatically with the fifth having to come through a two-legged play-off. For this year’s World Cup, Peru beat Oceania’s top side New Zealand to make it to Russia.
The new 48-team format will give South America six places, with a seventh side going into an intercontinental play-off.
The expansion, when it does come into practice (be it in 2022 or 2026), will see UEFA given three extra places for European sides – sixteen as opposed to its current total of thirteen. It will be a slight help to the likes of Ireland in qualifying for the finals, but not to the same extent that the European Championship expansion in 2016 was a major help to the Boys in Green.
© Agence France-Presse (with additional edits from Simon O’Keeffe)