- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 11, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) - The Asian Football Confederation says the continent deserves to be among the chief recipients of extra World Cup places following FIFA’s decision to expand the event to 48 teams.

All confederations will be eager to capture as many as possible of the extra spots on offer from 2026 onward, and AFC president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa said the rapid growth in Asia’s population warranted much more than current four direct qualifying berths at the World Cup.

“We believe that Asia, as the biggest continent, deserves more slots compared with the current quota, looking at the economic power it has, and the popularity for the game in Asia, in addition to the huge development for football at all levels,” Sheikh Salman said.

The Asian confederation spreads from the Middle East to East Asian nations such as Japan and Korea.

Australia, which has been part of the Asian confederation since the 2006 World Cup, backed the calls for more World Cup berths for the region.

Football Federation Australia chief executive David Gallop said the decision to expand the World Cup recognized the growth of the game outside of Europe and South America.

“Australia is part of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) where the most significant growth and investment is occurring, and we expect this trend to continue over the coming years leading up to the World Cup expansion,” Football Federation Australia chief executive David Gallop said.

“As the quality of Asian football continues to improve, AFC member associations will justifiably deserve greater representation.”

FIFA projects the expanded World Cup will generate increased profit of $640 million despite some extra operating costs and prize money for teams. FIFA’s six continents should find out by May how many extra places they will each get.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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