UEFA to ask FIFA for 16 places at expanded 2026 World Cup

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin speaks during a news conference after the meeting of the UEFA Executive Committee at the UEFA headquarters, in Nyon, Switzerland, Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017. Ceferin said Europe will formally ask FIFA for at least 16 places in the expanded 48-team World Cup. (Martial Trezzini/Keystone via AP)

UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin says Europe will formally ask FIFA for at least 16 places in the expanded 48-team World Cup

NYON, Switzerland — Europe will formally ask FIFA for at least 16 places in the expanded 48-team World Cup lineup, UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin said Thursday.

"We think it's realistic to ask for 16 slots plus another condition that each European is in a different group," Ceferin said at a news conference after an executive committee meeting.

FIFA decided last month to add 16 teams to the 2026 tournament. Two teams will advance to a 32-team knockout round from each three-nation group.

"I think all 16 can qualify for the second round," Ceferin said.

FIFA plans to confirm continental entry quotas for the 2026 World Cup at meetings in Bahrain in May.

If UEFA's requests are accepted by FIFA, it will ensure no all-European matches in the 12-day group stage at the 2026 tournament.

At the 2014 World Cup, the opening round of group games included the Netherlands routing defending champion Spain 5-1, Italy beating England 2-1, and eventual winner Germany beating Portugal 4-0.

Ceferin announced planned reforms for UEFA five months after he was elected to succeed Michel Platini, who was banned by FIFA for a financial conflict of interest.

They include limiting UEFA's president and executive committee members to a maximum of three four-year terms.

Future candidates for elected positions should also have active roles at their national federation, Ceferin suggested. Those roles include president, vice president, general secretary or CEO at one of UEFA's 55 members.

UEFA also wants to add a commitment to ethical values in its statutory rules, which can be updated at its annual congress on April 5 in Helsinki, Finland.

Under Platini's leadership, which ended over a $2 million payment he received from FIFA in 2011, UEFA had no formal ethical objectives.

"Some ethical provisions should be included in the disciplinary code," Ceferin said.

Ceferin declined to comment on FIFA's current review of the application by Vitaly Mutko, the Russian deputy prime minister and head of the 2018 World Cup organizing committee, to retain his FIFA Council seat in an election in Helsinki.

Mutko is being investigated by the FIFA ethics committee over his alleged role in a Russian state doping program, including claims by a World Anti-Doping Agency investigation team that he knew of and covered up doping in Russian soccer.

Ceferin also wants UEFA members to support adding two independent members to a good governance panel, and create a dedicated division overseeing the women's game.

"We will invest more in women's football, we will promote it. We need people who do the work," the Slovene official said.

UEFA also wants to formalize two seats on its executive committee with full voting rights to nominees from the European Club Association. The observer roles are currently held by Karl-Heinz Rummenigge of Bayern Munich and Andrea Agnelli of Juventus.

The leagues' umbrella group could also be given full representation, Ceferin said. Leaders of the European Professional Football Leagues have threatened to withdraw cooperation with UEFA in a dispute fueled by Champions League changes announced last August.

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