VIENNA (AP) -- Europe's World Cup qualifying process will be based on 13 available places for the 2018 tournament, even though UEFA thinks it deserves a 14th.
UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino said Monday that Europe will retain the same format of nine qualifying groups. The nine group winners will advance to play in Russia, and the eight best runners-up will enter a playoff round.
With Russia automatically qualified as host, Europe is already set to have 14 teams in the 32-nation lineup.
Still, FIFA has invited its six confederations to pitch for more guaranteed qualifying slots at a May 30 session of its executive committee. Infantino said it would be "objective and fair" for UEFA to seek an extra slot after European teams won the past three World Cups.
In recent years, FIFA President Sepp Blatter has encouraged other continents to seek more World Cup places, likely at Europe's expense.
"To crown the best team you must have the best teams," Infantino said after a UEFA executive committee meeting.
FIFA will draw the World Cup qualifying groups on July 25 in St. Petersburg.
Europe's 52 eligible teams, which do not include UEFA member Gibraltar, will be drawn into seven six-team groups, and two groups of five.
Gibraltar could be added to the draw if its football federation wins an appeal in May at the Court of Arbitration for Sport. It is challenging FIFA's refusal to accept the British territory as a member.