Under the new presidency of Gianni Infantino, the FIFA Council is living up to its promises in relation to expanding the World Cup tournament and giving more World Cup spots to certain regional federations that have been underrepresented in the past. Such is the case with the Confederation of African Football, which will get nine spots for national teams starting in 2026. The initial move towards the future World Cup expansion took place in January 2017. Back then, the Council voted to increase the tournament from 32 teams to 48. At this time, five nations out of 54 in the Confederation qualify for the tournament. The 2026 expansion would result in nine spots for Africa, plus the possibility of a tenth spot in a playoff situation between teams from various federations that just missed the regular path to qualification.
Requests for African teams to get more World Cup spots date back a few years. One football official who has been working closely with FIFA president Infantino is Danny Jordaan from the South African Football Association. Although initial requests were made for ten spots, analysts believe that the nine automatic slots, along with a chance of winning an extra spot by means of playoffs, is fair enough. Infantino and his supporters have explained that granting additional World Cup spots has been part of a process that seeks to recognize the important contribution Africa has made to the beautiful game. In recent years, quite a few star players signed to the top European clubs have come from the Continent. Scouts and agents working from Latin American and Asian clubs are starting to pay closer attention to African players.
Another reason behind the African expansion in future World Cup tournaments has to do with development and social responsibility. As the most popular sport in the world, football has proven to work wonders in developing nations in the African continent. By granting more places to teams from this region, the sport becomes an uplifting force among families who follow their national teams. In other words, the beautiful game has the power to improve quality of life, something that is sorely needed in various African nations. Not everyone is thrilled with the future World Cup format. Some elitists who consider confederations other than Europe and South America as inferior in the World Cup have already complained that FIFA is ruining the World Cup; thankfully, these critics seem to be in the minority.