The New Club World Cup’s Format is Farcical

Image credit: Eurosport
Image credit: Eurosport

The new Club World Cup’s format is farcical and will only create more issues for top-level football clubs.

Manchester City won what will go down as the final FIFA Club World Cup in the format that we’ve been used to from the inter-confederation club tournament. For 2025 and beyond, the competition is being changed into a less frequent and larger tournament more akin to the Euros or Copa America.

While this might seem like a good thing for fans of the Club World Cup, it will have a potentially devastating effect on the squads of the best football clubs in the world.

The New Club World Cup’s Format is Farcical

For a while, the Club World Cup’s new format was shrouded in mystery, but we knew that change of some kind was coming. FIFA already has the biggest international team tournament in the World Cup, but they have been jealous of UEFA having the Champions League.

The Champions League has been a resounding success since it was rebranded from the European Cup in 1992 and is only rivaled in terms of its revenue by the Premier League and has no equivalent in terms of prestige.

FIFA wants to undermine UEFA’s Champions League and the only way to do this is to create a tournament modelled off the World Cup, but for clubs. There will be 32 teams in the 2025 FIFA Club World Cup that will be split into eight groups of four and follow the knockout format we’re used to from the World Cup.

That means another seven games for all of the semi-finalists and at least three for all clubs in the competition. The injury crisis football is currently in will only get worse as a result, as footballers are forced to play more games in what is already a packed schedule.

It’s even worse as well when you consider that this tournament will take place during what’s normally the off-season, even before most pre-seasons have begun. FIFPRO has derided the new Club World Cup and La Liga has even threatened legal action if their sides are made to compete in the competition.

The World Cup is being expanded in 2026, as well as a new FIFA Intercontinental Cup and a larger UEFA Champions League. Football will kill its golden goose if it’s not careful. You can pay footballers as much as you want, but you cannot overcome the limitations of the human body. Money can’t beat biology.

Which clubs have qualified?

So, this is happening and as always, the greed of the people at the top of football trumps the fans of the clubs that will actually be taking part in this tournament. The clubs that are already include Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain, Inter Milan, Chelsea, Manchester City, Real Madrid, Porto & Benfica from Europe.

Oceania’s sole representative is Auckland City from New Zealand, Al-Hilal and Urawa Dragons from Asia. Africa has Wydad Casablanca and Al Ahly, with North America being represented by Monterey, Leon and the Seattle Sounders.

Image credit: ESPN FC

Lastly, the sides from South America are so far a Brazilian trio in Fluminense, Flamengo and Palmeiras. There will also be a “host” club from the United States that will most likely be from the city where the final will be held.

There are also another nine teams yet to be confirmed, but as it currently stands, these will likely be the ones we see next year:

  • Best German side (4-year ranking): Leipzig
  • Best Italian side (4-year ranking): Roma
  • Best Spanish side (4-year ranking): Barcelona
  • 2023-24 UEFA Champions League winners (defaults to best-placed UEFA side): Manchester United
  • Best South American side (4-year ranking): River Plate
  • Second-best South American side (4-year ranking): Boca Juniors
  • 2024 Copa Libertadores Winner: Gremio
  • 2023-24 AFC Champions League Winner: Al-Nassr
  • Best AFC side (4-year ranking): Kawasaki Frontale
  • Best CAF side (4-year ranking): ES Tunis
  • 2023-24 AF Champions League Winner: Mamelodi Sundowns
  • 2024 CONCACAF Champions Cup Winner: Inter Miami

Problems with the Club World Cup

The Club World Cup has never been the most popular tournament. While this is a great chance for the best club sides from Oceania, Asia, North America and Africa to play the giants of Europe and South America, it doesn’t have the prestige of most top-level football competitions.

With only seven sides on show and the whole thing over in a matter of a few weeks, it’s viewed as a distraction from regular league action for the champions of Europe and South America. While winning the trophy is a good thing for the victors, it’s not viewed as a bigger accomplishment than their domestic Supercup or the European Supercup.

Image credit: Eurosport

It’s also rather predictable in terms of its winner. Since its inception in 2000, the Club World Cup has been won solely by European and Brazilian clubs. The gulf in quality is huge and while qualifiers does help to lessen this gap, the final will almost always be played between a European and South American side.

In fact, the difference in quality between the European and South American champions has become even bigger in recent seasons too. Man City’s 4-0 victory over Fluminense wasn’t surprising, and nor did it flatter the English side.

So, something has to be done, but like the EFL Cup, there is definitely an argument to be made for scrapping the Club World Cup.

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