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Expanded World Cup less special: Paul Wade

AAP logoAAP 11/01/2017 Warren Barnsley

FIFA's decision to expand the 2026 World Cup to 48 teams will devalue qualification for football's showpiece event, according to former Australian captain Paul Wade.

An additional 16 nations will contest the tournament likely to be held in North America after the FIFA Council unanimously approved president Gianni Infantino's plan.

Wade knows all too well the difficulty of qualification, having led the Socceroos in their failed intercontinental playoff against Diego Maradona's Argentina for the 1994 World Cup.

Wade is concerned the expansion will make qualification too easy.

"I don't agree with 16 (extra teams). I think there's got to more incentive than that. That just makes it even more diluted," Wade told AAP.

"It's great for other countries, but all of a sudden there's nothing special about it.

"Is money dominating the game that much?"

The 2026 tournament will expand from 64 matches to 80 and feature 16 three-team groups with the top two advancing to a round of 32.

The world governing body forecasts the equivalent of $US1 billion ($A1.4 billion) extra income compared to its expected revenue from 2018 World Cup in Russia.

FIFA's six continents should find out by May how many extra places they will get.

With potentially more mediocre teams involved in 2026, Wade raised Australia's 31-0 drubbing of Oceania minnows American Samoa in 2001 as an example of the lopsided competition that should be avoided at a World Cup.

The retired English-born midfielder said it also may mean fewer breathtaking moments in Australian soccer such as the Socceroos qualifying in 2006 by beating Uruguay in a penalty shootout.

"We don't need 31-0 at the World Cup. It's got to be special. Very, very special," Wade said.

"When we were qualifying, my biggest brief was that we got 180 minutes to get there. If we slipped up, that was it. Four years, all over."

Former Socceroos goalkeeper Mark Bosnich, who twice missed out on playing in a World Cup when Australia fell short at the last hurdle in 1994 and 1998, welcomed the expansion.

"I just prefer the fact that for so long there's been that many teams who for so long haven't been able to be involved, including Australia, now be involved," Bosnich told Fox Sports.

"It's a massive event, it's the biggest sporting competition in the world.

"It gives all these countries the chance to experience what a great, massive social event that it is."

Football Federation Australia chief David Gallop was upbeat about the expansion decision which he believed recognised 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," Gallop said in statement.

"As the quality of Asian football continues to improve, AFC Member Associations will justifiably deserve greater representation at the FIFA World Cup."

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