Gianni Infantino has risked a major row with Europe’s leading federations by announcing that Fifa will launch a 32-team men’s Club World Cup in 2025.
FIFA chief Gianni Infantino announced plans on Friday for a 32-team Club World Cup from 2025, despite reported opposition from Europe’s biggest clubs. An expansion of the competition has long been a pet project of Infantino’s. A 24-team event, featuring eight sides from Europe, was planned for 2021 in China but was put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic. Infantino said the new-look tournament would be even bigger than first planned. Reports in the British media this week said European clubs had rejected FIFA’s proposal to launch the new-look competition.
“We had agreed a few years ago to have a new 24-team men’s Club World Cup,” the FIFA president said at the World Cup in Doha on Friday.
“It should have taken place in 2021 but was postponed because of Covid. The new competition will take place in 2025 and will feature 32 teams, making it really like a World Cup.”
The plan drew a furious reaction from players’ union FIFPRO.
It said in a statement that despite an ‘understanding’ with FIFA that there would be “a joint negotiation of the international match calendar” at the FIFA Congress in March 2023 “these decisions were taken unilaterally without seriously consulting, let alone agreeing, with the players.”
FIFPRO said the new format as well as planned changes to the formats of the men’s and women’s World Cups and a decision not to adjust the women’s calendar around the 2024 Olympics, “have created new conditions that further increase pressure on players’ workload and their jobs.”
The plans are for an expanded tournament to be held every four years instead of annually, as is the case for the current seven-team event.
“The first edition will take place in 2025 in the summer and during that slot where in past years it was the Confederations Cup,” Infantino said.
“It will be slightly longer because there will be 32 teams but they will be the best teams in the world who will be invited to participate.”
Infantino said next year’s Club World Cup, in its current format, would take place in Morocco from February 1 to 11, 2023.
Morocco hosted the tournament in 2013 and again in 2014, while the most recent edition was held in the United Arab Emirates in February, with Chelsea lifting the trophy.
The 2023 tournament is set to continue in its existing format — up until now it has featured the six continental champions plus the top side from the host nation.
Real Madrid will represent Europe after winning last season’s UEFA Champions League.
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Flamengo of Brazil, Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia, Wydad Casablanca of Morocco, Seattle Sounders from the United States and New Zealand’s Auckland City are the other current continental champions.