Keystone, Walter Bieri, Associated Press
ZURICH — CONCACAF, soccer's regional governing body for North and Central America and the Caribbean, failed in its attempt to gain an additional berth for the 2014 World Cup.
FIFA's executive committee decided Thursday that all six continental confederations will have the same number of qualifying spots for the 2014 tournament in Brazil as they did for last year's World Cup in South Africa. But it did change the playoff system for the final berths in the 32-nation field to a draw rather than fixed pairings.
CONCACAF will still have three automatic berths and the chance to win a fourth in a playoff. Europe kept its 13 qualifying spots and Africa its five, although it does lose the host spot it had last year. South America will have four qualifying berths, the chance to win a fifth in a playoff plus Brazil as the host.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter said the executive committee turned down CONCACAF's request for a fourth guaranteed slot among the 31 available.
"It's impossible to make always everybody happy. If we look at the sporting results of the World Cup in 2010 there was no reason to change anything," Blatter said.
But the change in the playoff system could make it easier for CONCACAF to win a fourth spot. There will be a draw this July for the playoff pairings instead of the prearranged matchups used for the 2010 tournament. Uruguay, South America's fifth-place team, defeated Costa Rica, which finished fourth in CONCACAF qualifying and then advanced all the way to the semifinals in South Africa.
For the 2014 World Cup, CONCACAF's No. 4 team could face South America's fifth-place finisher, Asia's No. 5 team or the Oceania champion.
"What happened in the voting is that someone promised something, and when it came down to the voting, didn't deliver," Mexican Football Federation president Justino Compean told ESPN Radio. "(CONCACAF President Jack) Warner and Blazer are trustworthy people, but we only have three votes against 24."
FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke said the site for the qualifying draw on July 30 has not been set, and it remains uncertain whether the 2014 opener will be played in Sao Paulo, where stadium plans remain uncertain.
FIFA's decision Thursday caused CONCACAF to say it will reconsider a proposed change to qualifying that would have prevented regional powerhouses United States and Mexico from meeting.
Chuck Blazer, the American on FIFA's executive committee and CONCACAF's No. 2 official, said there would not be enough available dates on the FIFA calendar for the formula CONCACAF had proposed, which would have had two groups of four in a final round of qualifying. For the past four World Cups, CONCACAF had a six-nation group in the finals.
"We need to come up with a system that works," he said. "At this point we'll put everything on the table."
Blatter was nominated for another four-year term by Somalia. The vote of FIFA's 208 members in June 1.
The FIFA Congress will be in Hungary in 2012 and Mauritius in 2013.
Former Cosmos star Franz Beckenbauer will head a Blatter-inspired "Task Force 2014" that will suggest ways of making the next World Cup more exciting.
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