A direct entry into the FIFA World Cup for the Oceania Football Confederation is expected in the 2026 edition.
FIFA council that met in Zurich this week unanimously backed the idea of expanding the FIFA World Cup from a 32-team competition to a 48 one with teams spilt into 16 groups of three and top two teams from each group advancing to a 32- team knockout stage.
Oceania region in the past years was offered a 0.5 slot allocation for the World Cup which meant that the Oceania champion had to feature in a playoff series against an Asian or South American side in a bid to qualify.
But all that is expected to change come the road to the 2026 edition of the FIFA World Cup as the expansion will no doubt guarantee a direct entry for the regional champions and the runner up could feature in playoffs depending the number of slots Oceania Football is allocated by FIFA which should be known in the coming months.
Oceania Football website reports that the new 48-team competition format has been drawn up in such a way that there is no reduction in the overall number of rest days and a guaranteed maximum of seven matches for the teams reaching the final, while the current 32-day tournament duration is kept, so as not to increase the length of time for which clubs have to release their players.
It further states that the decision was taken following a thorough analysis, based on a report that included four different format options. The study took into account such factors as sporting balance, competition quality, impact on football development, infrastructure, projections on financial position and the consequences for event delivery. Over the course of its next meetings, the FIFA Council is set to discuss further details regarding the competition, including the slot allocation per confederation.
Overall these changes spring a ray of hope and providing that unique opportunity to see a Fijian side feature at the FIFA World Cup.
While 2026 being almost a decade away, the Fiji national side is still alive in the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers campaign and await the All Whites in their next two matches.