FIFA adds World Cup berths

Date Published: 
Southeast Missourian

NEW YORK — The United States' chances of qualifying for the 1998 World Cup in France received a boost Wednesday following a recommendation for an additional berth for the Americans' region.

Under the plan, which is to be voted on Thursday, the Confederation of North and Central American and Caribbean Football (CONCACAF) would get three berths at the next World Cup.

FIFA, soccer's governing body, is expanding the tournament to 32 teams from 24. Under the plan recommended Wednesday by the presidents of the continental confederations, Europe would get two additional spots for a total of 15, including the host nation.

South America also would get two more spots for five, including defending champion Brazil, according to Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago, the CONCACAF president.

Africa also would get two more spots for five and Asia would get one more spot for a total of three. The final spot would go the the winner of a home-and-home, total-goals series between the Oceania champion and the fourth-place team in Asia.

In the 1994 tournament, the final spot was determined by a playoff among teams from Oceania, CONCACAF and South America, and was won by Argentina.

The United States, as host, automatically qualified for the 1994 World Cup. The Americans' appearance in 1990 was their first in 40 years.

Warner said another proposal being considered was to give Africa four spots and have that continent's fifth-place team play the fourth-place team from CONCACAF.

Europe had been trying for 16 spots, and European soccer officials were scheduled to meet Thursday before the semiannual meeting of FIFA's executive committee, which has the final say.

Eight of the 21 members of FIFA's executive committee are from Europe with three each from South America, Africa, Asia and CONCACAF. FIFA presiden Joao Havelange also has a vote.

In other business, the general secretary of the confederations decided to have a six-team Intercontinental Cup in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, from Jan. 6-13. The tournament will feature Denmark, Argentina, Nigeria, Japan, Mexico and the Oceania champion. The draw will be Nov. 28 in Riyadh.

FIFA's executive committee also will consider lifting the ban preventing Yugoslavia from playing international games.