Sports

UEFA president says few countries can host 48-team World Cup

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin addresses media at a news conference in Prague, Czech Republic, Tuesday, March 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin addresses media at a news conference in Prague, Czech Republic, Tuesday, March 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

PRAGUE, Czech Republic — There are only a few countries in Europe that would be able to host a 48-team World Cup, UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin said Tuesday.

FIFA decided in January to expand its biggest event from 32 to 48 teams for the 2026 tournament.

Speaking during a visit to the Czech soccer federation's headquarters, Ceferin pointed out that it will be hard to find many countries capable of providing a dozen suitable stadiums to host the tournament.

"I think maybe two countries, three countries in Europe, not more," said Ceferin, who was elected in September to succeed Michel Platini as president. "Nobody in Africa, maybe China, maybe USA, and that's it. Forty-eight is a big number, it will be interesting."

Ceferin previously said Europe will seek at least 16 places in the expanded 48-team lineup.

The United States is considered to be one of the favourites to host the 2026 World Cup.

The UEFA president also reiterated his thoughts on the Champions League and European Championship. He said the governing body of European soccer was happy about the recently approved changes in the Champions League which gave the continent's top four leagues an automatic four entries each into the group stage.

"Our plan is that the format and access list doesn't change anymore," Ceferin said. "Any super league, any closed league is out of the question concerning UEFA."

Ceferin said the national federations and clubs were not properly informed about the changes in the past. He added that the five biggest soccer nations bring in 86 per cent of UEFA revenues, and take 60 per cent .

"So it was not easy for the leadership of UEFA before my elections, there was quite a lot of pressure," Ceferin said.

Last year, UEFA also completed changes to the entry list, how clubs are ranked and seeded, plus distribution of prize money for the 2018-21 seasons in the Champions League and Europa League.

Ceferin also praised the increase in teams that participated at Euro 2016 in France, saying 24 teams "is the right number."

"It was a good competition," Ceferin said. "Many small nations qualified and did well. At the same time, it was the biggest revenue for UEFA so far."

The next continental tournament will be held across Europe in multiple countries, but Ceferin again said he would like to limit the number of host countries.

"Two countries and not more," Ceferin said, adding that staging Euro 2020 is "not an easy job for UEFA."

"It will not happen again in the future," Ceferin said, "at least while I'll be there."

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