31 Mar 2017

NZ Football welcomes proposed World Cup changes

10:11 am on 31 March 2017
The All Whites celebrate a goal against Fijji in their Russia 2018 World Cup qualifier.

The All Whites celebrate a goal against Fijji in their Russia 2018 World Cup qualifier. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

New Zealand Football says proposed changes to World Cup qualifications could be a game changer.

The sports world governing body FIFA announced its proposed allocation for an expanded 48-team World Cup from 2026.

The new format includes an automatic place for Oceania, 16 places for Europe - up from 13 - and a six-team inter-zonal play-off tournament for two more spots.

Oceania is the only confederation not to have a guaranteed spot currently having to play off against the fifth placed South American team.

New Zealand Football chief executive Andy Martin said they've been lobbying for such changes for years.

"In context it's not a direct entry for New Zealand, we still have to win our competition but having to win our competition instead of playing against the fifth best team in South America is a better path for all the teams in Oceania.

"There is also a half place for a second team for Oceania to go through to a a qualifying competition, that will raise standards, hope and ambition in the region," Mr Martin said.

New Zealand Football CEO Andy Martin.

New Zealand Football CEO Andy Martin. Photo: Supplied

He said he's not sure Australia's Socceroos would move back to Oceania if the changes go ahead- they currently play under the Asia confederation.

"We're just focused on us, making sure we get to Russia then we will be focusing on the 2022 playoffs, if the changes go ahead then 2026 could be the light at the end of the tunnel for us."

Mr Martin said the changes would be good news for football and would broaden the sport.

"Teams like New Zealand are competitive we have good players and coaches so we're not seeing teams getting smashed by eight or nine points like we used to - so there is room for more teams in the World Cup."