FIFA Approves New 24-Team Club World Cup, Will Begin Play in 2021

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistMarch 15, 2019

ABU DHABI,UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 22: Players of Real Madrid celebrate the victory as captain Sergio Ramos lifts the trophy after the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2018 Final between Real Madrid and Al Ain at the Zayed Sports City Stadium on December 22, 2018 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images)
Etsuo Hara/Getty Images

FIFA have voted to change the format of the Club World Cup, beginning in June and July of 2021. The council of world football's governing body passed the vote 25-7 on Friday, per FIFA's official website

Under the new rules, "24 teams will be split into eight groups of three teams each, with the group winners to qualify for the quarter-finals in a knockout format."

The idea is for the new-look competition to take the place of the Confederations Cup on the FIFA calendar. Further discussions will take place to sort out a match schedule and venue.

Real Madrid won the Club World Cup for a third year running after beating Al Ain FC 4-1 back in December.
Real Madrid won the Club World Cup for a third year running after beating Al Ain FC 4-1 back in December.Hassan Ammar/Associated Press

President Gianni Infantino talked up the changes, per BBC Sport: "Now the world will see a real Club World Cup where fans will see the best teams in the world compete to be crowned the real world champions."

Despite Infantino getting his plan ratified, the proposal had already been generating controversy even before the vote had passed. Some of the biggest clubs on the continent, including Premier League trio Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United, have threatened to refuse to take part, according to The Sun's Martin Lipton.

He noted how the European Clubs Association, which includes United chief executive Ed Woodward, wrote to Infantino protesting his proposal: "We are firmly against any proposal of a Club World Cup at this point in time and confirm that no ECA clubs would take part in such a competition."

It's a potentially disastrous development for FIFA's plans, even though the statement about the vote detailed "constructive dialogue" with UEFA about the issue.

BBC World's Piers Edwards noted how more clubs are being welcomed from different federations:

Infantino shouldn't be too surprised about some negative reaction when the changes he has made are on a significant scale. Aside from moving the tournament from December to the summer, the increase in teams will see a mammoth 17 new clubs participate.

Even so, there may be some advantage to the new format, with the tournament now positioned not to come during the regular European season. However, many top clubs may naturally baulk at the idea of having their preseason preparations interrupted.

Despite the distraction it can sometimes provide during the winter months, Real Madrid have won the trophy the last three years running.

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