KEIR RADNEDGE in ZURICH: Jeffrey Webb has come out as firmly opposed to expansion of the World Cup finals from its present 32-team format.

Webb is president of the central/north American confederation (CONCACAF) and considered a possible candidate for the leadership of the world football federation in 2019.

He was speaking today after a congress of his delegates in Zurich ahead of FIFA Congress on Friday when president Sepp Blatter is overwhelming favourite to see of a challenge from Prince Ali of Jordan.

The possible expansion of the World Cup finals to 36 or even 40 teams were floated during the election campaign by both Dutch federation chairman Michael Van Praag and Portugal’s former World Player of the Year Luis Figo. Both stepped out of the race last Thursday with Van Praag claiming he had persuaded Prince Ali to endorse the idea of a 36-team tournament.

However Webb, even though he believes CONCACAF deserves better than its current three-and-a-half qualifying slots is against achieving through playing the greater numbers game.

Leadership essential

He said: “The World Cup is a jewel of football and, for me, you shouldn’t increase the spaces in a World Cup for political reasons. You should 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 it.

“To have 32 is great. If you look at the standard and 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?”

One way in which CONCACAF can increase its allocation is by gaining the host’s right if Webb and his colleagues can win staging rights to the 2026 finals. Mexico, the United States and Canada are all expected to compete off the pitch and in the corridors of power.