FIFA to expand Club World Cup to 32 teams

The 2025 Club World Cup will feature 32 teams, making the format similar to the Soccer World Cup, Fifa president Gianni Infantino said on Friday.

The tournament, now with seven teams, would be held every four years and boost revenues for the global sports body.

The top teams of every continental competition as well as the hosts’ national champion will battle it out for the Club World Cup title.

Fifa expected revenues of $11 billion (R194.5b) for the four-years between 2022 and 2026, but that did not include the new club World Cup format in 2025.

“This $11 billion figure is without the club World Cup [in 2025]. At the end of the four years we will make even more revenues,” Infantino told a news conference.

The 2026 World Cup will be hosted by the US, Canada and Mexico.

Infantino said the 2022 Club World Cup, traditionally held in December, but delayed this year due to the World Cup in Qatar, will be hosted by Morocco between February 1 and 11.

The decision was taken by the Fifa council after its meeting on Friday.

The Qatar World Cup kept political messaging away from the football so that fans could enjoy “a little moment of pleasure and joy”, Infantino said.

Speaking two days before the final between Argentina and France, he defended Fifa’s decision not to allow teams to display messages on their shirts or team captains’ armbands.

“It is not about prohibiting. It’s is about respecting regulations. On the field we play football. You need to respect the field of play. This is nothing new.”

The World Cup in the desert state led to a significant amount of political discussion, with some teams voicing concerns about the host’s treatment of migrant labour, its approach to LGBTQ rights and Fifa’s threats to penalise players for political statements.

Germany’s soccer federation was among the most vocal in pressing for anti-discrimination “OneLove” armbands to be worn by players and said “extreme blackmail” from Fifa and a threat of sanctions led to Germany, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, Wales, England and Switzerland abandoning plans to wear them.

Before their surprise opening defeat by Japan, the German team posed for a prematch photo with their hands on their mouths, alluding to them being silenced by Fifa.

“Maybe everyone has his own problems. They [fans] just want to spend 90 minutes or 100 minutes or 120 minutes with penalties without having to think about anything else. Just enjoying a little moment of pleasure and joy, of emotions,” Infantino said.

“We have to give these people a moment where they can forget their problems and enjoy football. Outside the match everybody can express their views and opinions.”

Infantino said the tournament was the “best World Cup ever” and had shown the cohesive power it had.

Qatar invested a reported $200 billion in the tournament, but after two weeks had received just more than 765,000 visitors.

This fell short of the country’s expectations for an influx of 1.2 million during the month-long event with a surge in visitors not materialising in the second half of the tournament and with empty seats at almost every game.

Infantino said the tournament, which ends with the final on Sunday, had so far been a success, having attracted a total of 1.7 million people in the fan zones, with about 80,000 fans attending those areas daily.

Average attendance stood at 52,000 per match, about  5,000 more spectators than at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

In total, about 3.27-million spectators — domestic and international — were recorded with two matches remaining. The total figure for the tournament in 2018 was 3.03-million.

“It was very successful, but, touch wood, two matches to go,” he said. “Focus until the end and then we will confirm these feelings we have now.”

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