The World Cup sees the best national teams around the globe compete to win football’s most prestigious prize.
Qualifying routes are often long and difficult, and the best teams can struggle to make it to the finals – just ask Italy.
Here is the history of the number of teams that play in the World Cup.
How many teams are in the World Cup?
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 finally expanded to 32 teams for the first time in 1998, and the number has not changed since then. This expansion allowed minnows from Africa, Asia and North America to enjoy success that they would not otherwise have experienced in smaller editions.
The 2022 FIFA World Cup will be the last to feature 32 teams, with a planned expansion to 48 in 2026. This was confirmed in 2017 after FIFA President Gianni Infantino expressed support for such an increase.
Which teams have qualified for the 2022 World Cup?
The qualification process for the 2022 World Cup began in 2019 and ended in 2022, with 206 national teams from six confederations attempting to qualify for the tournament in Qatar.
Host nation Qatar qualified first and were later joined by Germany and Denmark, who both sealed their places in October 2021. Brazil, France, Belgium, Serbia, Spain, Croatia, Switzerland, England, Netherlands and Argentina followed the following month.
The final placing in the tournament was decided by a play-off, the last three teams to qualify were Wales, Australia and Costa Rica.
- The Netherlands
- United States
- Saudi Arabia
- Costa Rica
- South Korea