Five Nations that will Benefit from the Expansion of the 2026 World Cup

Packed stadium, stock image

The upcoming tournament will be the first ever to showcase 48 teams, a 50% increase from the format that we have come to love between 1998-2022. While many questions have been raised regarding the effect on the quality of football, it also poses an opportunity to see teams that struggled to qualify in the previous format. 

5. DR Congo

If there’s something that the 2023 African Cup of Nations taught us, it is that the level of football in the 2nd largest continent in the world is improving. One of the tournament’s impressive teams was DR Congo, who coped well with continental powerhouses such as Egypt and Morocco. This is unsurprising given the depth of talent they boast, including Brentford’s Yoane Wissa, and Young Boys’ Meschak Elia.

4. Jordan

The Middle Eastern kingdom is a rising power in Asian football. They’ve never qualified for a World Cup, and their first appearance on the continental stage was 20 years ago. Their ascension culminated with a wonderful run all the way to the final in the 2023 AFC Asian Cup, including a semi-final win over a strong South Korean side. Jordan’s squad is far from star-studded, but they showed immense strength and grit during the competition. Perhaps, now they will get a first opportunity to reach football’s biggest stage, after coming close with a play-off loss to Uruguay ahead of the 2014 World Cup.
Changes in slots by region
ConfederationDirect slotsPlay-off slotsSlots for the 2022 World Cup
CONMEBOL614+1 play-off
CONCACAF3+323+1 play-off
OFC110 or 1
AFC814+1 or 5+1
How many additional teams will play from every region in the 2026 World Cup compared to the 2022 World Cup

3. Venezuela

It may be time for the only CONMEBOL country that has never participated in a World Cup to finally qualify to one. Veterans Salomon Rondon and Tomas Rincon definitely deserve it, and they are surrounded by decent players which form a squad competitive enough to make it to the top 60-70% of their qualifying tournament.

2. Jamaica

The 2026 World Cup is hosted by the three strongest CONCACAF nations: USA, Mexico, and Canada. Their automatic qualification creates an opportunity for some fresh appearances in the tournament by less familiar nations. One of those is Jamaica, who reached the FIFA World Cup only once, in 1998. We all remember the 90’s cult movie, Cool Runnings, in which Jamaica showed the world that they have a bobsled team, now it’s time for the Caribbean island-nation to remind us of their football prowess. 

1. Norway

Norway must return to football’s central stage. The last time the Scandinavian nation was in a World Cup was in 1998, and with all due respect to Kjetil Rekdal, and Tore Andre Flo, they are by no means megastars on the level of Erling Haaland. And it’s not solely the responsibility of the Manchester City striker, who will turn 26 two days after the 2026 World Cup Final, to carry the Norwegian wagon. 

He is surrounded by a solid squad, including Martin Odegaard, Alexander Sorloth, and many other renowned international players. The three additional slots granted to Europe ahead of the upcoming tournament, should make the difference and put an end to Norway’s struggle to make it to a major tournament. Let’s: we all want to see Erling Haaland play in a FIFA World Cup while he is at his peak. 

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