FIFA has confirmed Oceania will receive a direct entry into the expanded 48-team World Cup, as of 2026.
The move to give Oceania an automatic qualification spot had been in the works for some time, but the FIFA council finally ratified the proposal.
Currently, the Oceanian nation which finishes at the top of the region’s qualification group must progress through an intercontinental play-off to reach the World Cup.
The last team to do so was New Zealand, who defeated Bahrain to qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
They again won the Oceanian group four years on, but were thrashed over two legs by Mexico.
New Zealand Football CEO Andy Martin welcomed the restructure, saying it would make the path to the World Cup “less onerous” for Oceanian nations.
“This news has been signposted for a while but without doubt this is a good decision and the right decision,” he said in a statement published on New Zealand Football’s website.
“Having all of the regions around the world represented at the FIFA World Cup is exactly the right place to be.
“It potentially makes the route for New Zealand to the FIFA World Cup less onerous.
“We know that if we qualify for the intercontinental play-off in November that we could be up against someone like Argentina. This way gives us more of a fighting chance.
“We have got to make sure that we are in the best shape possible when these opportunities come around.”
Europe will have the most qualification spots with 16 The remaining confederations’ slots are as follows: AFC 8.5 slots, CAF 9.5 slots, CONCACAF 6.5 slots, CONMEBOL 6.5 slots, OFC 1.5 slots.
The host nation of the 48-team World Cup will remain as an automatic qualifier.
The host of the 2026 World Cup is yet to be decided, though a joint bid from the US, Canada and Mexico appears to be leading the way.