[Oh wow, it's a Sounder-lanche! Thanks, guys!]
I wanted to take a look at how national teams that form a confederation are distributed through the FIFA World Rankings, which I claim serves as a proxy for the relative strength of the confederations. Ordinal data are taken from the March 2011 FIFA rankings, separated for the six confederations, and grouped in nine bins (1-25, 26-50, 51-75, 76-100, 101-125, 126-150, 151-175, 175-200, 201+). For all of the confederations, the number of teams in those ranking bins are divided by the total number of teams in the confederation to obtain a normalized proportion of teams in a particular bin.
Result plots are after the jump.
The first chart is a normalized distribution of the number of teams in the ranking bins relative to the number of teams in the confederation. Horizonal axis is the ranking bins, and the vertical axis is the proportion of confederation teams.
As you might expect, the European and South American confederations have the highest proportion of their teams in the upper quantiles of the FIFA rankings. CONMEBOL is especially top-heavy, with half of their teams in the top 25 and none outside of the top 100. UEFA distribution looks consistent with a power law distribution, as the proportion of teams steadily decreases down the ranking quantiles.
The other confederations are more evenly distributed throughout the FIFA rankings. The big exception to this observation is Oceania, which is the most bottom-heavy of the confederations. Only one member team is in the top 100 (New Zealand), and the others are outside the top 150! The rest of the confederations have varying degrees of top-heaviness. The African confederation has a higher proportion of its members in the top 100 than the Asian or North American confederations, but a plurality of their teams are neither true minnows nor good enough to qualify for a World Cup. CONCACAF has a higher proportion of its teams in the upper quantiles than the AFC, but both confederations have high proportions in the bottom reaches of the FIFA ranking.
How would a merged American confederation look relative to the other confederations? The next plot gives an idea:
The result of a merged CONCACAF-CONMEBOL merger would be a confederation with a more even distribution of team quality. From the perspective of the South Americans, an enlarged confederation would see additional teams in the second and third quantiles, and a lot more teams in the lower levels of the FIFA rankings. The result is a confederation in which a third of its members would be in the top 75, another third would be between 75-150, and the rest would be outside the top 150. It would be a distribution unlike that seen in other confederations in world football.