FIFA anxious to reboot Club World Cup after years of delays

GENEVA (AP) — Long the most coveted member of FIFA’s family of soccer competitions, the latest Club World Cup kicks off Wednesday as a seven-team event, two years after that format was scrapped two years ago. Update up to 32 teams.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has wanted to create a bigger and better version of its only club competition since he was elected president of soccer’s world governing body in 2016, an event valued at $3 billion per edition. Every team.

Until a major overhaul in 2025 after the European season, FIFA is going year-by-year with a smaller interim version of the intercontinental championship that rarely adds to its multibillion-dollar revenue..

FIFA will pay $5 million of the $16 million total prize fund to the winner next week, which will see Real Madrid on a brief, two-game visit to Morocco, starting with a semifinal against the Seattle Sounders. The champions of Europe have won 14 out of 15 titles since 2007.

FIFA confirmed Morocco’s hosting six weeks ago, marking a change of venue for the tournament in a crowded global football calendar.

The decision was made in Qatar on a day that Infantino had targeted for a first 32-team club event in 2025. — “It’s really like a World Cup,” he said in Doha.

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The timing surprised some soccer officials in Europe, who saw FIFA’s ambitions in club soccer as a threat to their domestic leagues and the globally popular, highly lucrative Champions League. Before moving to FIFA, Infantino was UEFA General Secretary and oversaw the Champions League and knows exactly the appeal and value of running top-flight clubs.

Infantino was quickly identified in 2016 The two FIFA events for men’s continental champions have little appeal or value because broadcasting and sponsorship rights are currently tied to the World Cup.

The Confederations Cup for eight national teams was discontinued in 2017. With Infantino stymied by UEFA and the Covid-19 pandemic, efforts to resume the Club World Cup have been stalled.

FIFA said a major Club World Cup would “promote and develop football for the benefit of all confederations, member associations, leagues, clubs and fans”.

In a tumultuous 2018, Infantino’s motivation to accept a $25 billion offer UEFA has faced objections to the creation of new competitions, saying they need to keep secret about the investors who hold franchise stakes. The agreement called for a Club World Cup every four years Also objected.

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A year later in Shanghai, the governing FIFA Council agreed for the 24-team Club World Cup to be hosted by China in June 2021. There will be eight teams in Europe, but FIFA 12 wants teams to make new commercial deals.

The format consisted of eight three-team groups, with the winners expected to advance to the quarter-finals. Teams will play a maximum of five games in 18 days at the end of June, similar to the Confederations Cup schedule.

FIFA called off the European Championship and Copa America in March 2020, taking the inevitable decision when the pandemic forced them to postpone the start of the European Championship and Copa America to June 2021.

In that vacuum, Europe’s top 12 clubs attempted to launch a breakaway Super League program. It failed in a few days Amid backlash from UEFA, fan groups and lawmakers.

Infantino later agreed It has held talks with some Super League clubs, including Real Madrid and Barcelona, ​​which backed the previous $25 billion project. He denied that “FIFA is in any way behind or in collusion or conspiracy” with the Super League.

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When the expansion of the Club World Cup was halted, the planned 2020 edition in Qatar did not become FIFA’s farewell to the one-time seven-team format. The 2020 Club World Cup was postponed to 2021, with the pandemic delaying three continental finals, with matches not played that year.

The 2021 edition was played in February 2022 with Abu Dhabi as a replacement for Japan, which pulled out in December citing COVID-related limitations on spectators.

The 2022 edition was delayed to start this month as the World Cup in Qatar was last December, the usual time for the Club World Cup since 2005.

So there could be two Club World Cups in 2023, with a regular December edition in the mix. The seven-team farewell will have to wait until December 2024.

FIFA said this week that no decision had been made.


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