BY KUNLE SOLAJA.
At least nine teams from Africa will be at the World Cup 2026. This is the outcome of the Bureau of the FIFA Council Meeting held at FIFA headquarters on Thursday.
The Bureau of the FIFA Council is composed of the FIFA president and the president of each of the six confederations.
New CAF boss, Ahmad, attended for the first time and appears to have scored a big mark as Africa was the biggest gainer in the allocation of slots in the expanded FIFA World Cup format.
The continent will have direct nine slots apart from the possibility of gaining an additional one from play-off.
While Africa gained four additional slots to its current five, Europe got three to bring its total to 16.
But the recommendation of the Bureau of the FIFA Council will still have to be ratified by FIFA Council which meets on May 9, in Manama, Bahrain, two days before the 67th FIFA Congress.
The FIFA Council had on January 10 decided to expand the World Cup to a 48-team competition beginning from 2026. The other allocations recommended are:
- Asia (AFC) – 8 direct slots
- South America (CONMEBOL) – 6 direct slots
- North & Central America (CONCACAF) – 6 direct slots
- Oceania (OFC) – 1 direct slot
- Europe (UEFA) – 16 direct slots
It was further stated that as usual, the host country would also automatically qualify for the FIFA World Cup, and its slot would be taken from the quota of its confederation. In the event of co-hosting, the number of host countries to qualify automatically would be decided by the FIFA Council.
The above allocation accounts for 46 of the 48 participating teams. The proposal reviewed by the Bureau of the Council includes a play-off tournament involving six teams to decide the last two FIFA World Cup berths:
- One team per confederation with the exception of UEFA + one additional team from the confederation of the host country;
- Two teams to be seeded based on the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking. The seeded teams will play for a FIFA World Cup berth against the winners of the first two knockout games involving the four unseeded teams;
- Tournament to be played in the host country(ies) and to be used as a test event for the FIFA World Cup;
- Existing play-off window of November 2025 suggested as tentative date for the 2026 edition.