Induldge me for a moment, the following will NEVER happen, but it’s my idea on how to improve the qualifiers:
I would love to see four regions merged in the qualifiers: South America (Conmebol) + North/Central America (Concacaf) into one region (AMERICAS); and Asia (AFC) and Oceania (OFC) into one (ASIA-PACIFIC).
This would provide some benefits:
* AMERICAS would be able to be played in a group format, which is better than the endless everyone-v-everyone South American currently has. It would probably require a preliminary round for the really small nations (Bermuda, Suriname, Belize, Bahamas, Montserrat, et al). Then provide 16 or 20 qualifiers into four groups. First and second from each group qualify (8 places)
* It would effectively mean that ANYONE in Oceania would have to play several meaningful teams before getting to the World Cup. I live in New Zealand and I think the footballing region is an absolute joke, especially since Australia left. New Zealand has officially “won” the region (by beating New Caledonia) and is waiting for the fifth-placed Asian team to be determined, so that they can go have their asses kicked in Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain or wherever it will be.
This way you have four “super-regions” (for lack of a better term):
EUROPE – 12 teams qualify
AMERICAS – 8 teams qualify
AFRICA – 6 teams qualify
ASIA-PACIFIC – 6 teams qualify
You can adjust those numbers how you like, but I like these qualifiers a lot better. Mexico and the US would have to prove that they are better than Uruguay, Ecuador, Chile and Colombia, rather than just Honduras and whichever Caribbean nation has a decent run at the moment (Jamaica this year).
Needless to say, FIFA will NEVER go for anything like this. Especially merging Concacaf and Conmebol. I wish they would, a Copa America including all of the Americas would be as exciting as the Euros for me.
Finally, like I said, I live in New Zealand. It was painful watching their qualifies against “major” Oceania nations like New Caledonia and Fiji. I wish New Zealand could do like Australia and just join the Asian Confederation. Not sure where that would leave Oceania, but I think everyone would agree at that point that no Oceania team would merit having a WCQ tournament.