Rebranded Fifa Club World Cup currently a divisive topic amid player welfare concerns

Rebranded Fifa Club World Cup currently a divisive topic amid player welfare concerns
Fifa President Gianni Infantino speaks during the 74th Fifa Congress in Bangkok, Thailand. 17 May 2024. Infantino has said the 2025 Fifa Club World Cup ‘will be a major milestone’. (Photo: Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha)

The first edition of the revamped Fifa Club World Cup will take place in the US next year. However, not everyone is overly excited about it. 

In December 2023 global soccer’s governing body Fifa officially unveiled a new version of its annual inter-club tournament — the Club World Cup. Though it is set to only take place in 2025, it has proven to be a divisive development to date.

The previous iteration of the tournament — which had been contested since 2000— featured six continental champions, plus a club from the host nation, facing off within a week of action-packed soccer.

However, in that guise, it could never quite garner the hype and prestige of the national team version of the World Cup. Only the supporters of the participating teams were truly invested in it.


With this new version that Fifa has crafted, the hope is that this will change. Similarly to the quadrennial national team World Cup, the club showpiece will also take place every four years. It has also been expanded from just seven teams to 32 hopefuls in pursuit of global domination.

Whereas the previous version of the tournament was strictly in knockout form and handed clubs from Europe and South America byes in the first two rounds, the 2025 reimagined spectacle will mirror the World Cup more closely.

The qualified teams will be placed in eight groups, with each mini-league housing four teams. The top two teams per group will then progress to the round of 16, where they attempt to reach the final.

There will be no bronze-medal playoff and the tournament is set to be held in the US between 15 June and 13 July 2025.

“Clubs play a fundamental role in world football, and the 2025 Fifa Club World Cup will be a major milestone in providing clubs from all confederations with a fitting stage on which to shine at the highest level of the game,” said Fifa President Gianni Infantino on the competition.

“This will be an open competition based on sporting merit that will play a key role as part of our efforts to make football truly global.”

The Club World Cup is also a replacement for the Fifa Confederations Cup. This tournament was also held every four years and served as a precursor to the following year’s World Cup extravaganza. It was cast aside ahead of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, with the final edition hosted by Russia in 2017.

Gianni Infantino, Club World Cup

Fifa President Gianni Infantino during the 74th Fifa Congress in Bangkok, Thailand. 17 May 2024. (Photo: EPA-EFE/Rungroj Yongrit)

A game changer?

The tournament has also been touted as a game changer for the development of clubs not based in Europe. It will feature clubs from all six global confederations, with Europe claiming the bulk of the spots as Fifa looks to cash in on their global popularity.

Of the 32 slots available, 12 are reserved for European clubs. Real Madrid, Chelsea and Manchester City are in by virtue of being crowned European champions over the last three seasons. Borussia Dortmund — which is set to contest the 2024 Champions League final with the already-qualified Madrid, are also in.

Teams such as Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus, Inter Milan, Atlético Madrid, Porto, Benfica and Austria’s RB Salzburg have qualified via the rankings system derived from their historic performances in European competition of the last four years.

Africa has four representatives. Record African champions Al Ahly (Egypt), as well as 2022 Champions League winners Wydad Casablanca, of Morocco, South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns and Tunisian giants Espérance.

Further afield South American clubs such as Palmeiras, Fluminense, Flamengo and River Plate have taken up four of the six spots available to the region for the World Cup. Auckland City of New Zealand will be the sole representative of the Oceania region.

“It’s a completely new experience. It could be something great. It’s a great initiative, and I’m really curious about it myself. I hope it will be a big success and that we will all enjoy it,” former Dutch international midfielder Wesley Sneijder told Fifa’s media department.

“People always have to get used to new things. But we should all support this big international club tournament. The Club World Cup does give clubs from anywhere in the world, the opportunity to compete against the top European clubs,” the former Real and Inter midfielder added.

Manchester City, Club World Cup

Manchester City celebrate after winning against Fluminense during the Fifa Club World Cup final match at King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. 22 December 2023. (Photo: Marcio Machado/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images)


Not everyone is pleased with the reinvigorated competition though. Upon confirmation by Fifa that the World Cup was greenlighted, global player union Fédération Internationale des Associations de Footballeurs Professionnels (Fifpro) denounced it.

“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. They have repeatedly voiced concerns about the mounting workload to their national player unions,” Fifpro said.

“However, once again, decisions to scale competitions have been introduced without implementing appropriate safeguards, and without any say from the players who are at the forefront of driving the game’s popularity and revenue generation with their skill and endeavour,” the union added.

Since releasing this statement at the tail-end of 2023, Fifpro have written to Fifa reiterating their concerns around the World Cup. They were joined by the World Leagues Association this time.

In the letter, the two organisations accused Fifa of being selfish and putting its own financial interest before the wellbeing of the players.

English Premier League chief executive Richard Masters also expressed concerns about the competition recently, saying:

“It is getting to a tipping point. The feedback we have from players is that there is too much football being played and there is constant expansion.”

Fifa, though, remains resolute and has responded to the criticism of its new competition by stating it is “fully entitled to set the parameters” of its competitions “while respecting the existing regulatory framework”. DM


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