New Zealand Football can start planning for a massive financial windfall from the next decade onwards, after the proposed new World Cup qualifying routes were revealed yesterday.
The national body could bank at least $15 million every four years by regularly qualifying for the World Cup.
Fifa announced their planned allocation for the 48 team World Cup from 2026 onwards, which includes one direct entry spot for the Oceania winner. Oceania also receives a second chance, with the runners-up in the Confederation progressing to a six nation playoff for the final two spots in Fifa's flagship tournament.
The proposed allocation still needs to be voted on by the Fifa Council in May, but is expected to be rubber stamped.
"It's huge for New Zealand and for Oceania," former All White Ivan Vicelich told Radio Sport yesterday. "It's a massive carrot on the cake to qualify for the World Cup. It's a big moment in history."
New Zealand Football banked more than $10 million from their 2010 World Cup qualification.
Participating teams from the 2014 tournament received between $12 and $13 million and that figure is expected to grow again in 2018. The expansion to 48 teams by 2026 could boost revenue from the tournament by an estimated US$900 million ($1.2 billion), which would mean an even greater dividend for participating nations.
That money would be a game-changer for NZF.
Regular World Cup payments would allow NZF to put more money into development and age group teams, and also fund a greater international programme.
However, it shouldn't be assumed that New Zealand will have a red carpet ride to each World Cup. Standards are improving across Oceania.
"We are so called favourites but the last few qualifying rounds have been tougher," said Vicelich. "It's definitely going to lift the quality of football in our region. You get rewarded when you qualify for the biggest tournament in the world."
The new format
Proposed Fifa World Cup format 48-team tournament from 2026
North America 6
Two playoff places 2
• To be decided from a six-nation playoff, including the Oceania runners-up.
Current allocations: Europe 13, Africa 5, Asia 4.5, South America 4.5, North America 3.5, Oceania 0.5, host nation 1.