World Cup dream 'reachable' for Azkals after expansion of field to 48, says PFF
The Azkals are ranked No. 13 in Asia, which is allotted four spots under the current World Cup format - a number expected to climb to six or seven after Fifa's decision to expand the field beginning in 2026.

THE Philippine Football Federation (PFF) welcomed the decision of Fifa (International Football Federation) to expand the field of the World Cup to 48 countries, starting in the 2026 edition of the sport’s showpiece event.

From 32 teams, an additional 16 will have spots in the quadrennial event, a change that was voted unanimously by the Fifa council in a meeting in its headquarters in Switzerland on Tuesday.

“If you’re one of the many countries that can only dream of participating in a thirty-two team World Cup, then this decision of Fifa is most welcome,” PFF general secretary Ed Gastanes said in a phone chat with SPIN.ph on Wednesday.

“Mas abot tanaw na natin yung pangarap na makapunta sa World Cup,” he added. “All Filipino football fans should be happy.”

The development essentially adds one more preliminary stage to the tournament, composed of 16 groups of three teams each, with the top two advancing to the Top 32, before a knockout stage ensues.

The World Cup next year in Russia and 2022 edition in Qatar will have the same 32 teams, before the new format will be adopted four years later.

[See Asia lobbies for more World Cup spots after expansion]

For now, Asia has four slots to the World Cup, or “4.5” including a country that still has to go through a playoff to advance.

But the developments grants the world’s largest continent at least two more spots.

“Chances are, Asia will now have six or seven teams,” Gastanes said.

The Philippines is ranked 13th in Asia as of last month. Iran, South Korea, Japan, Australia, and Saudi Arabia occupy the Top Five in the continent.

“We have to dream and work for it and then maybe after eight, sixteen, or twenty years, the Philippines can be there,” Gastanes said.

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