The Rugby Football League says it will refuse to sanction an expanded Super League if it does not receive enough suitable applications.
Super League currently has 12 clubs, including one from France
A 14-team league, with no relegation for three years, is expected to start under a licence system in 2009.
But RFL chief executive Nigel Wood told BBC Sport: "We would not move from 12 to 14 if the quality was compromised.
"Subject to standard, we will be moving to 14 but that is not carte blanche on accepting inferior applications."
Clubs from Super League and National League One are eligible to submit an application for a licence, as well as teams from outside the RFL pyramid, like French side Toulouse.
All applications must be with the RFL by the end of March, when the governing body will then begin an evaluation process that is expected to last several months.
The system is being introduced to allow clubs to invest in facilities and junior development without the threat of relegation hanging over them.
In moving to 14 clubs we would have to find 50 new professional players of the right standard
RFL chief executive Nigel Wood
"It will allow clubs to begin to direct some of the game's resources into medium-term development rather than the short-term panic of trying to hire a player, invariably from overseas, who will just make the difference battling against relegation and then move off without any long-term legacy," said Wood.
The introduction of the licence system is the latest RFL move to help develop and promote rugby league in Britain.
The first major initiative came in March 1996, when the game moved from a winter to summer sport.
Two years later, the play-offs were introduced, culminating in a Grand Final that takes place at Old Trafford in October.
Then came the 'Millennium Magic' weekend in May 2007, a format that involves all 12 Super League teams playing over two days in Cardiff.
The RFL will take its time deciding which teams will make up a revamped Super League.
It will employ a 10-point checklist, covering such criteria as facilities, finance, junior development and fanbase.
The current Super League clubs, plus Salford, Widnes, Celtic Crusaders and possibly Toulouse are all expected to apply.
But even if there was a consistently high level of bids, Wood does not think there is scope to extend beyond 14 clubs.
"I cannot imagine more than 14," he added.
"Moving from 12 to 14 will in itself be an upheaval because we want to make sure playing standards do not deteriorate.
"In moving to 14 clubs we need to find 50 new professional players of the right quality. At the same time, expansion has a destabilising effect on the National League."
Wood concluded that expanding Super League by two teams was "probably digestible" but more than a couple of additional teams was not.