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Club World Cup: FIFA plan expanded 32-team tournament

Football's world governing body FIFA has announced plans for an expanded, 32-team Club World Cup to be held every four years from 2025.

A smaller version of the tournament, featuring seven clubs from six confederations, is currently played annually but FIFA president Gianni Infantino wants to introduce a bigger competition for the world's top men's and women's clubs.

FIFA's expansion plans

The format of the Club World Cup has been under discussion for several years and in 2018 FIFA announced plans to broaden the tournament to 24 teams and hold it every four years from June 2021.

That proposal was delayed, but the Club World Cup has been back on the agenda at a FIFA Council meeting in Qatar during the World Cup and the latest suggestion is that 32 clubs will be invited to compete for the trophy.

Speaking in Qatar, Infantino said: "The details of the location still need to be discussed but it has been agreed and decided that a 32-team Club World Cup tournament will go ahead, making it like a World Cup.

"[It will] be played every four years and the first edition will take place in 2025 in the summer, during that slot where in other years it would be the Confederations Cup. It will be slightly longer because there are 32 teams but they will be the best teams in the world who will all be invited to participate."

The Confederations Cup, last held in 2017, was traditionally part of the build-up to a men's World Cup finals. It was an international tournament involving the World Cup holders, the host nation and the six continental champions.

The 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia was won by Germany, who suffered group-stage eliminations at the World Cups of 2018 and 2022 but are 5/1 to win Euro 2024, which they will host.

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What is the history of the Club World Cup?

The inaugural Club World Cup was held in Brazil in 2000 and was dominated by teams from the host nation with Corinthians beating Vasco da Gama in the final.

Manchester United, who qualified after winning the Champions League in 1998/99, failed to reach the semi-finals but the Red Devils became the first English club to claim the trophy in 2008, beating LDU Quito of Ecuador 1-0 in the final in Japan.

There have been 18 editions of the tournament, most of them featuring seven clubs, and Real Madrid are the most successful team in the Club World Cup's history, winning four titles in five years between 2014 and 2018.

Real will be Europe's representatives again at the 2022 tournament, which will be held in Morocco in February 2023 due to the timing of the Qatar World Cup, after they won the 2021/22 Champions League final against Liverpool.

The Madrid giants are 12/1 to win the UEFA Champions League 2022/23 while Chelsea, who won the 2021 Club World Cup in the UAE, are 14/1 to be crowned European champions again this season.

How will an expanded Club World Cup affect the schedule?

FIFA president Infantino was prepared for pushback from the media and top European clubs but he insists that player welfare will not be compromised by an expanded Club World Cup.

The World Leagues Forum, the world association of professional football leagues, responded to the idea by saying that it will ask FIFA "for a transparent process for their calendar and competition decisions, which must involve meaningful agreements with the leagues".

The new-look competition is effectively taking the place of the Confederations Cup in June, after the conclusion of the European league season and UEFA club competitions.

In his statement after the FIFA Council meeting, Infantino spoke of the organisation's desire "to protect the health and wellbeing of players", adding that they do not want to "overburden the calendar".

Those concerns will be weighed against the possible financial benefits to FIFA of an expanded Club World Cup. In the current format, only one European club qualifies each year and Real Madrid's rivals in Morocco in February will include Flamengo, Wydad Casablanca, Seattle Sounders and Auckland City.

A 32-team tournament could feature many more clubs from the Premier League and other high-profile European divisions. That would increase the interest in the Club World Cup and mean, according to Infantino, that "we're going to have an even greater sum that we'll be able to invest in world football over the next four years".

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