Super Rugby will keep its unloved current format until the end of next year but change could happen in 2018, a report said Wednesday citing the chief of governing body SANZAAR.
The competition expanded to 18 teams this season with the addition of Japan's Sunwolves, Argentina's Jaguares and South Africa's Southern Kings, but it has not been plain sailing.
Critics have complained of the lacklustre standard of games, lopsided contests, exhausting travel schedules and a fragmented, four-conference system watched by smaller crowds.
While the New Zealand conference is fiercely competitive with three co-leaders among its five teams, the other three conferences in Australia and South Africa are considerably weaker.
Fairfax New Zealand's stuff.co.nz reported that SANZAAR has hired a consultancy firm and over the next six months will map out a 10-year strategic vision.
It said expressions of interest for potential new teams would then be sought, with possible bids from South America, North America, the Pacific, Europe and other parts of Asia.
"You've got to be open-minded when you go into a process," the governing body's chief executive Andy Marinos was quoted as saying.
"Is it a continual expansion? Is it an expansion in two conferences? Is it a reduction and creating a two-tier system? There's a whole lot of different permutations one has to consider as you go through a process like this if you want to get the best result.
"Certain countries may reduce and some may retain or expand."
He added that "2018 for me is more achievable should we look to expand".
"To try put a new team up in 2017 you're not giving them enough time to prepare," he said.
"You need at least 12 to 18 months to identify the opportunity and then make sure the high performance and commercial models can underpin it."