The World Cup sees the best national teams around the globe compete to win football’s most prestigious prize.

The qualification roads are often long and hard and the best teams can struggle to make it to the big time – just ask Italy.

Here’s the history behind the amount of teams that play at World Cups.

At present, 32 teams qualify for the World Cup. Hosts qualify automatically, but winners are no longer afforded that luxury – France, the winners in Russia in 2018, were required to go through normal qualifying.

The amount of teams present at the World Cup has steadily grown since its inaugural edition in 1930, where 13 teams competed as Uruguay beat Argentina in the final. Bar the 1934 and 1978 competitions, the finals all had 16 teams until an expansion to 24 in 1982.

FIFA eventually stretched to 32 teams for the first time in 1998 and the number has remained the same ever since. That expansion has allowed minnows from Africa, Asia and North America to enjoy success they otherwise wouldn’t have in the smaller editions.

The 2022 World Cup will be the last to feature 32 teams, with a planned expansion to 48 set to take place in 2026. That was confirmed in 2017 after FIFA president Gianni Infantino had expressed his support for such an increase.

The qualification process for the 2022 World Cup began in 2019 and ended in 2022, with 206 national teams from six confederations attempting to reached the tournament in Qatar.

The host nation Qatar qualified first and were later joined by Germany and Denmark, who both sealed their spots in October 2021. Brazil, France, Belgium Serbia, Spain, Croatia, Switzerland, England, the Netherlands and Argentina all followed the next month.

Play-offs decided the final spots in the tournament, with Wales, Australia and Costa Rica the last three teams to qualify.


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