FIFA anxious to reboot Club World Cup after years of delays

GENEVA (AP) — A little-loved member of FIFA’s long-standing family of soccer tournaments, the latest Club World Cup kicks off Wednesday with seven teams competing two years after the format was scrapped and two years before the ambitious competition. Upgrade with up to 32 teams.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has wanted to create a bigger and better version of its only club tournament since being elected to head world soccer’s governing body in 2016, pledging tens of millions in prize money to an event he once valued at potentially $3 billion per edition. every team.

Until a major overhaul – possibly in 2025 after the European season – FIFA is going year after year with a smaller mid-season version of the intercontinental championship, which barely adds up to its multi-billion dollar revenue..

FIFA will pay $5 million of the $16 million total prize pool to the winner next week, with Real Madrid on a short, two-game trip to Morocco, likely starting with a semifinal against the Seattle Sounders. The European champion has won 14 out of 15 titles since 2007.

The tournament’s relocation in a congested global soccer calendar came just six weeks ago when FIFA confirmed Morocco as the host.

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The decision comes as Infantino targets a club event in Qatar in 2025 with the first 32 teams participating. — In Doha, he said, “to really make it like a World Cup.”

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 joining FIFA, Infantino was the general secretary of UEFA, which oversees the Champions League, and knows exactly the appeal and value of the top-flight club structure.

Infantino quickly gained recognition in 2016 Two FIFA events for men’s continental champions with limited appeal and value as broadcast and sponsorship rights are currently combined with the World Cup.

In 2017, the Confederations Cup, which featured eight national teams, was suspended. The Club World Cup was suspended, while Infantino was prevented from restarting it by UEFA and the COVID-19 pandemic.

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

In a difficult 2018, Infantino was forced to accept a $25 billion offer Privacy objections have been met that UEFA will have investors’ ownership stake to create new competitions. The agreement called for the Club World Cup to be held every four years and a proposal to continue the annual event was also resisted.

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A year later, the ruling FIFA Council in Shanghai agreed to the 24-team FIFA Club World Cup starting in June 2021, hosted by China. Europe would have eight teams, although FIFA wanted 12 to help broker new commercial deals.

The format was expected to include eight three-team groups with the winners advancing to the quarterfinals. Teams would play a maximum of five games over 18 days at the end of June, similar to the Confederations Cup schedule.

FIFA took the inevitable decision in March 2020 when the pandemic forced the postponement of the European Championship and the Copa America to start in June 2021.

In this gap, the 12 most prestigious clubs in Europe tried to implement the Super League project. It failed within days Amid backlash from UEFA, fan groups and lawmakers.

Infantino later admitted is in talks with some Super League clubs, including Real Madrid and Barcelona, ​​which previously backed the $25 billion project. He denied that “FIFA was in any way behind or colluding or plotting for the Super League”.

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When the expansion of the Club World Cup was shelved, the planned 2020 edition in Qatar did not become the farewell FIFA that was once intended for the seven-team format. The tournament was not held that year due to the pandemic, which postponed the tri-continental finals and moved the 2020 Club World Cup to 2021.

The 2021 edition was played in February 2022 with Abu Dhabi as a short-notice replacement for Japan, which was withdrawn in December citing anticipated COVID-related restrictions on spectators.

The start of the 2022 edition this month was delayed because the World Cup in Qatar was held last December, the usual time slot for the Club World Cup since 2005.

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

FIFA said no decision had been made this week.


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