Europe is on the brink of being granted 16 guaranteed places at a 48-team World Cup, with plans also announced for a six-nation play-off for the final two spots.
The prospect of Scotland, Wales, and Northern and the Republic of Ireland joining England in regularly qualifying for major tournaments was given a huge boost when Fifa announced its proposed allocation for an expanded event on Thursday.
Recommendations that will be submitted for approval by the world governing body’s council in May included Uefa being awarded a third of the places from 2026 onwards.
The agreed allocation followed a meeting yesterday between the president of Fifa, Gianni Infantino, and the heads of each of its six continental confederations in Zurich.
As well as Europe’s quota being increased by three places, nine spots were proposed for teams from Africa, eight for Asia, six for South America, six for North and Central America and the Caribbean, and one for Oceania.
A single host country would still qualify automatically, with their place being removed from the quota of their confederation.
Fifa added in a statement: “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 for the final two spots would feature one team from each confederation with the exception of Uefa, plus one from the host’s confederation, with two of the teams seeded based on their Fifa ranking.
The unseeded teams would 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 would be contested in the same country as the World Cup and used as a test event, with Fifa specifying November 2025 as the likely month in which it would first be played.