What teams 'could' be in the World Cup?
It seems to often be assumed that all the World Cup teams must represent internationally recognized countries. There are even some web sites that will tell you that countries such as England, Scotland, and the Faeroe Islands have no right to be in the World Cup because they are not member countries of the United Nations.
I've even seen it suggested that the United Kingdom is exercising an unfair advantage by having 4 teams, so other countries such as the USA should be allowed to enter 50 odd teams - one for each State. To discover the full story, I contacted FIFA and asked them for an explanation..
There are 193 internationally recognized countries, but there are 207 FIFA Football Associations.
The first football associations were established in the United Kingdom: England (1863), Scotland (1873) Wales (1876) and Northern Ireland (1880). These four associations enjoy the historic right to be members of FIFA, although they do not represent sovereign nations. That explains why the UK doesn't have a team - it's 4 constituent countries are members anyway because they started it all off.
Most of the other associations that do not represent a UN member are FIFA members on the basis of Article 10, Paragraph 6 of the FIFA statutes. It states: 'A football association representing a territory that has not yet gained independence may apply for FIFA membership if it has the authorization of the association of the country to which this territory belongs. For example, the Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic are part of the Kingdom of Denmark. To form their own national team, the islanders needed the approval of the Danish football association. The latter endorsed the plan in 1988, enabling the Faroe Islands to become a FIFA member. FIFA's latest addition arrived in September 2005: East Timor and the Comoros became member's No. 206 and 207 of the FIFA football family.
There are only 8 UN countries that are not members of FIFA. These are the United Kingdom, Monaco, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Tuvalu.
So, those who feel that it's wrong for some countries to be in the FIFA World Cup when they are 'just' territories rather than internationally recognized countries have missed the point. The World Cup is a challenge run by FIFA for FIFA Associations, according to FIFA rules. It's not run by the UN or by geographers :-)
So, for those of you who want to know more about the Football Associations that 'could' take part in the World Cup, here's a list showing them all, with links to their excellent FIFA web pages.