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FIFA Plan Could Help U.S. in Cup


NEW YORK — The presidents of the six continental confederations of FIFA, soccer's international governing body, agreed Wednesday to a division of expanded World Cup berths that seemed to satisfy almost everyone.

Their plan, which will be voted upon today by FIFA's Executive Committee, allocates the extra eight places for France '98 as follows:

--Europe: two extra places for a total of 15, including host France, which automatically qualifies.

--South America: one extra place for a total of five, including defending champion Brazil, which automatically qualifies.

--Africa: two extra places for a total of five.

--Asia: one extra place for a total of three.

--CONCACAF: one extra place for a total of three.

The eighth place will go to the winner of a home-and-home playoff between Asia and Oceania.

As a possible alternative, the confederation presidents suggested that Africa be awarded one extra place, with the other going to the winner of a playoff between Africa and CONCACAF, the North and Central American and Caribbean region.

In the end, what will emerge is that when the first 32-team World Cup is held there are sure to be some countries that have never before qualified.

Certainly, the United States' chances of qualifying will be greatly enhanced if CONCACAF gets three places.

The Executive Committee could reject both plans today and come up with one of its own, but that is considered unlikely.

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