FIFA’s revamped Club World Cup planned for 2025 and set to feature 32 teams will be played from June 15 to July 13, while a new Intercontinental Cup will be played annually from 2024, Gianni Infantino, the head of world football’s governing body, said on Dec 17.
The announcement drew criticism from the global players’ union Fifpro as well as the World Leagues Forum (WLF), an organisation representing 44 major professional leagues that is chaired by Premier League chief Richard Masters.
FIFA had announced an expanded Club World Cup earlier in 2023 and unanimously voted the United States as hosts for the first edition of the event.
The Fifa council meeting in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to ratify the dates for the Club World Cup, also confirmed that 2024’s Intercontinental Cup would have the Champions League winners playing a team who came through intercontinental play-offs, which will be played on Dec 14, 2024, followed by the final four days later.
The 2025 edition of the Club World Cup, which will be held every four years, will have eight groups of four with the top two teams from each group going through to the knockout stages – the same format as the World Cup.
Four European places have been given to the winners of the Champions League dating back to 2021, namely Chelsea, Real Madrid and Manchester City, as well as the eventual victors of the 2024 campaign.
A further five clubs from the continent have already qualified for the 2025 tournament thanks to their Uefa ranking: Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich, Inter Milan, Porto and Benfica.
The current version of the Club World Cup – an annual competition with seven teams – will be discontinued after the 2023 tournament, which is under way in Saudi Arabia.
The existing format sees the European and South American champions enter the tournament in the semi-final phase, while champions from the other confederations come through earlier rounds.
The dates of the Club World Cup, however, give European teams who qualify little time to rest between the 2024-25 and 2025-26 seasons. The European season traditionally ends in May, with the Champions League final taking place by the first week of June, while the new season kicks off in August.
WLF chair Masters said they were unhappy that they had been overlooked in Fifa’s decision-making process.
In a letter seen by Reuters, Masters told Infantino that the expansion of Fifa’s competitions in recent years was detrimental to other football stakeholders and accused the global body of prioritising their own interests.
Masters also said the June-July schedule would impact player availability for national leagues at the start of the season in August, while he also raised questions about player workload and health risks.
Fifpro said the decision to add a bigger Club World Cup at the end of the European season demonstrated “a lack of consideration” for players’ physical and mental health, and disregarded their personal and family lives.
“The expanded competition will undercut the rest and recovery time of these players at the end of the 2024-25 season, and further disrupt national employment markets by changing the balance between national and international competitions,” Fifpro said in a statement.
“Players will have to perform at the end of an 11-month season with little prospect of getting enough rest before the following season starts.”
“The extreme mental and physical pressures at the pinnacle of the game is the principal concern of players with multiple club and national team competitions, leading to exhaustion, physical injuries, mental health issues, diminished performance, and risks to career longevity,” it added.