ZURICH (Reuters) - The World Cup is football’s jewel and should not be tarnished by being increased to more than 32 teams, CONCACAF confederation president Jeffrey Webb said on Tuesday.
Webb, whose region represents north and central American countries and the Caribbean islands, said he would welcome another spot for his confederation but said 32 teams was the right number for the globe’s most popular sporting extravaganza.
“The World Cup is the jewel of football and, for me, you shouldn’t increase the spaces in a World Cup for political reasons,” he told reporters after a meeting of CONCACAF member associations in Zurich for this week’s FIFA Congress.
“You should only increase the spaces in the World Cup because of the development of the game. Are we going to dilute the World Cup to appease various associations?
“No, we must have real leadership and courage to stand up and address this issue,” added Webb.
“Thirty-two countries is great. If you look at the standard, you look at the television ratings, it’s tremendous. Every single game. Do you want to go to a World Cup where you know what the score is going to be every single game?”.
FIFA’s executive committee is meeting on Saturday, the day after the vote for the next president, to decide on the allocation for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups even though qualifying for Russia is underway in Asia and in CONCACAF.
During their election campaigns Luis Figo and Michael van Praag, who have since withdrawn their bids to be president, advocated expanding the World Cup to possibly as many as 48 teams.
Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan, the only candidate left to challenge incumbent Sepp Blatter, said he would be in favor of discussing the issue if he won.
At last year’s World Cup in Brazil, CONCACAF had four teams at the finals: the United States, Mexico, Honduras and Costa Rica with the latter reaching the quarter-finals for the first time.
Mexico qualified for the finals after beating New Zealand in a continental playoff.
Asked if he would welcome four teams qualifying directly without one having to go through a playoff, Webb said: “I’d love it, I’d welcome it a lot”.
Editing by Tony Jimenez