Hypothetical: Worldwide World Cup Qualifying
|I was reading a few threads on Bigsoccer about possibly expanding the World Cup, which is something that was considered by FIFA a few years ago. It actually seems kind of inevitable given the almost certain expansion of Euro 2016 to 24 teams. It's sad because 32 teams is the perfect number to set up a 16 team second round. You have no craziness with third place teams advancing, for example.|
Anyway, people were discussing how the extra berths would be distributed between the confederations, and whether or not there would still be inter-confederation playoffs as we have today. It seems to be a popular notion in those type of threads to suggest having either more teams in the playoffs or having a small tournament of sorts between the final 4 or 8 teams. I don't mind the notion of that because why should Asia get New Zealand when we'll likely get Uruguay or Colombia? But it also reminds me of another oft-mentioned scenario, which eliminates the problems of divvying up the World Cup berths altogether: worldwide qualifying between all confederations.
I would not have a problem with worldwide qualification.I don't think the travel costs would be that bad, since you could narrow it down to eliminate the minnows first. FIFA could always pitch in to help if necessary (they do that now to help build fields, stuff like that). Obviously it would not be popular with the European countries, but you'd likely only have 5 away trips which wouldn't be so bad.
I think it would make for a higher quality final tournament, though perhaps at the expense of a tournament with true worldwide interest. I don't expect it to happen, but hypotheticals are fun, so here's what I would suggest:
Final 90 teams:
Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, England, France, Ghana, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine
I assume they would just take the round of 16 from the previous WC. Australia as the worst ranked of the 16 get left out.
Australia | Bahrain | China PR | Iran | Iraq | Japan | Jordan | Korea DPR | Korea Republic | Kuwait | Oman | Qatar | Saudi Arabia | Syria | United Arab Emirates | Uzbekistan
Angola | Burkina Faso | Cameroon | Congo DR | Côte d'Ivoire | Egypt | Guinea | Libya | Mali | Morocco | Nigeria | Rwanda | Senegal | Togo | Tunisia
Canada | Costa Rica | Cuba | El Salvador | Guatemala | Haiti | Honduras | Jamaica | Panama | Trinidad and Tobago | U.S.A.
Bolivia | Chile | Colombia | Paraguay | Peru | Uruguay | Venezuela
New Caledonia | New Zealand
Austria | Belgium | Bosnia and Herzegovina | Bulgaria | Croatia | Czech Republic | Denmark | Finland | FYR Macedonia | Greece | Hungary | Republic of Ireland | Israel | Lithuania | Northern Ireland | Norway | Poland | Romania | Russia | Scotland | Serbia | Slovakia | Slovenia | Turkey
Group 01: Sweden, Hungary, Saudi Arabia, Cameroon, New Zealand, Canada
Group 02: Brazil, Bulgaria, Slovenia, North Korea, Libya, Honduras
Group 03: Ecuador, Austria, Denmark, Australia, Morocco, Jamaica
Group 04: Switzerland, Greece, Iraq, South Korea, Nigeria, Cuba
Group 05: France, Romania, Uzbekistan, Rwanda, New Caledonia, USA
Group 06: Spain, Russia, Serbia, Bahrain, Burkina Faso, Colombia
Group 07: Italy, Poland, Norway, China, Senegal, Venezuela
Group 08: Ukraine, Israel, Czech, Syria, Mali, Panama
Group 09: Mexico, Belgium, Scotland, Oman, Guinea, Peru
Group 10: England, Ireland, Kuwait, Egypt, Costa Rica, Paraguay
Group 11: Ghana, Finland, Bosnia, Japan, Togo, Uruguay
Group 12: Netherlands, Lithuania, Iran, Congo DR, Guatemala, Chile
Group 13: Portugal, Macedonia, N.Ireland, Qatar, Tunisia, Haiti
Group 14: Germany, Turkey, UAE, Angola, El Salvador, Bolivia
Group 15: Argentina, Croatia, Slovakia, Jordan, Cote d'Ivoire, Trinidad
So in order to qualify, you'd have to finish top two in your group (except for one lucky/good third place team). You'd definitely have the potential for some groups of varying qualify, but overall I think things would be pretty balanced, like in group 4 for example. I don't think you would see 20 European teams qualifying either.