TO THE DOHA, QAT — On Friday, FIFA president Gianni Infantino announced the creation of a new 32-team men’s Club World Cup, set to begin in June 2025.
Infantino said this at the end of the World Cup news conference in Qatar, saying that the FIFA Council has opted to hold the tournament every four years instead of the 24-team edition scheduled for 2021 but postponed because of the COVID-19 epidemic.
In the most recent instalment of the Club World Cup, held in Abu Dhabi in February, Chelsea prevailed over Palmeiras.
Infantino has stated that “the first edition will take place in 2025 throughout the summer.” During the timeframe where the Confederations Cup was previously played; the duration will be somewhat increased to accommodate the 32-team pitch.
But those teams will represent the absolute pinnacle of athletic achievement. They’ll be given an opportunity to take part. In the coming weeks or months, we will work with all of the relevant parties to finalise all of the event’s arrangements, including a location.
The competition will have 32 teams, making it very similar to the World Cup; however, the specifics have yet to be worked out.
The FIFA Council has unanimously decided to host the Club World Cup on principle at this time. Remember that we were the only international football organisation that didn’t have a competition during the pandemic.
We had originally planned to hold a 24-team Club World Cup in 2020, but everyone else postponed or shortened their tournaments. As a result, that plan was scrapped. It didn’t get cancelled or moved.
“We did that to safeguard the health and wellbeing of players and to not overburden the schedule, but we also wanted to allow for the Copa America and the Euros.”
This decision was met with disapproval from FIFPRO, the worldwide association of professional football players.
“FIFPRO takes notice with astonishment of today’s decisions by the FIFA Council concerning the international match calendars for men’s and women’s football,” it stated in a statement.
These decisions were made unilaterally, without even contacting or agreeing with the players, notwithstanding an agreement FIFPRO established with FIFA last week that joint negotiation of the international match calendar will take place prior to the FIFA Congress in March 2023.
The World Leagues Forum (WLF), which represents professional association football leagues, also voiced its disapproval of the move, claiming that it could negatively affect the football industry and the well-being of players.
FIFA’s move “creates the risk of fixture congestion, more player injuries, and a distortion of competitive balance,” it stated in a statement, referring to the fact that the calendar is already “overloaded” due to established domestic club events and growing international competitions.
The next Club World Cup, with the usual seven-team event, will be held in Morocco from February 1-11, 2023, as was also confirmed on Friday.
Winners of the UEFA Champions League Real Madrid, Flamengo (winners of the Copa Libertadores), and Seattle Sounders (first winners of the CONCACAF Champions League from the United States) will all be competing.
In addition to consolidating the September and October international windows into a single, four-game period, FIFA also announced a women’s Club World Cup and a new friendly tournament called the “FIFA World Series,” which is designed to allow “teams from different confederations to play each other” in the March international window in even years.
As Infantino prepares for a new four-year cycle that will culminate with the 2026 World Cup in North America, the organisation has generated revenues of $7.5 billion and is expecting growth to $11bn.
Infantino remarked, “We are persuaded about the power of football.” We have no doubt that football will overtake baseball as America’s favourite sport. The second, perhaps, at first, and then eventually… but we are confident in the strength of our game. More money coming in means more money for development.
In North America, it will be mind-blowing. Involved in the event’s organisation are three major nations: Mexico, the United States, and Canada.
As the number of teams doubles from 32 to 48, more games are played, and more money is made through broadcasting, sponsorship, ticket sales, and hospitality services, the league will benefit.
Remember, we’ll be playing in massive North American stadiums. American football stadiums with seating capacities of 80,000 to 90,000. Almost the smallest capacity at 70,000, yet includes several fan-pleasing features.
Five to five and a half million people are expected to make the trip for these shows. And since we’ll be hard at work on the men’s World Cup starting on December 19, we’re confident that football will be blooming throughout North America.
The 2026 World Cup will feature 48 teams—up from 32 teams in the last tournament—and FIFA has officially said that the tournament will be divided into 16 groups of three countries each. Infantino, however, has hinted that this decision may be altered.
We have approved a tournament with 48 teams, divided into 16 groups of three with the top two teams from each group advancing to the 32-team, 16-team, 8-team, 4-team, and 2-team knockout stages, respectively.
“I have to say that after this World Cup and the success of the groups of four, and looking at some other competitions like the Euros, for example, where you have 24 teams and the top two plus the best third ones go to the next group stage, here the groups have been absolutely incredible in the sense that until the last minute of the last match, you don’t know who goes ahead.
Whether we choose to divide into 16 smaller groups of three or 12 larger groups of four, I believe this arrangement needs to be reconsidered or at least re-discussed at our upcoming meetings.