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FIFA’s Club World Cup has undergone changes. So let’s make sense of them


FIFA, Club World Cup, Infantino

Initially contested yearly between between the reigning continental club competition champions, FIFA recently gave the Club World Cup a confusing face lift. 

An expanded version of the FIFA Club World Cup (CWC) has been on the cards since as early as 2019, when FIFA president Gianni Infantino revealed a 24-team tournament would be hosted in mid-2021. 

However, COVID related logistical nightmares meant the competition reverted to its original format throughout the pandemic. It appeared it would remain the case until June 2023 when FIFA confirmed a newer and larger version of the Club World Cup.

But will the competition’s new version be any better?

The new format is incredibly confusing, but we’ve taken the liberty of wrapping our head around it so you don’t have to.

When will the new Club World Cup come into effect?


June and July of 2025, with the USA, one of the hosts of the following year’s World Cup, set to host the revamped competitions first edition.

What does the new Club World Cup look like?

In short; muddled. 

Taking inspiration from the FIFA World Cup, the updated Club World Cup will feature 32 teams from all across the globe. Unlike its predecessor, which occurred annually, the new version of the tournament will take place every four years.

Each international confederation gets an allocated number of teams, with the 2025 edition of the tournament providing us with an indication of what the competition’s future looks like.

FIFA, Club World Cup, Infantino

As with every major international tournament, the host nation will receive an automatic slot. In this instance, the USA will receive a place in the tournament, although that club is yet to be selected.

In the debut edition of the tournament the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), Confederation of African Football (CAF), and CONCACAF (North and Central America’s Confederation) get four slots, with the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) receiving one slot for the tournament.

These slots will be dedicated to the winners of that confederations respective premier club competition, such as the Asian Champions League, between 2021 and 2024. The final slot for each confederation goes to its best ranked eligible team based on a four-year ranking of that respective confederation’s clubs.

In CONMEBOL, the South American football confederation, who get six slots, three are designated to previous Copa Libertadores in the years preceding the Club World Cup, while another three go to the first, second, and third best ranked eligible sides based on a four-year ranking of the confederation’s clubs.

For the Oceania Football Federation, their sole representative at the 2025 Club World Cup, and future editions of the tournament, will be based on the best OFC Champions League winner in the OFC four-year ranking. Essentially, this merges the two criteria used in the other confederations.

The biggest representative in the new Club World Cup format is UEFA, football’s paramount confederation in the eyes of many. 

Europe’s football confederation will be represented by 12 sides. All four of the UEFA Champions League winners from 2021 to 2024 will be in attendance, plus eight of the best ranked eligible teams in a four-year ranking of UEFA clubs.

How will it work?

Much like how the FIFA World Cup functioned between 1998 and 2022, the 32 teams will be divided into eight groups comprising four teams. From each group, the top two will progress to the knockout stage.

Who is heading to the 2025 CWC?

The 13 teams confirmed to compete at the 2025 Club World Cup are:

  • Al-Hilal, Saudi Arabia – 2021 AFC Champions League winner
  • Urawa Red Diamonds, Japan – 2022 AFC Champions League winner
  • Al Ahly, Egypt – 2021 and 2023 CAF Champions League winner
  • Wydad Casablanca, Morocco – 2022 CAF Champions League winner
  • Monterrey, Mexico – 2021 CONCACAF Champions League winner
  • Seattle Sounders, USA – 2022 CONCACAF Champions League winner
  • León, Mexico – 2023 CONCACAF Champions League winner
  • Palmeiras, Brazil – 2021 Copa Libertadores winner
  • Flamengo, Brazil – 2022 Copa Libertadores winner
  • Fluminese, Brazil – 2023 Copa Libertadores winner
  • Chelsea, England – 2021 Champions League winner
  • Real Madrid, Spain – 2022 Champions League winner
  • Manchester City, England – 2023 Champions League winner
manchester city
Manchester City will most likely start as Club World Cup favourites.

How do the players feel?

Not happy. Football’s already congested schedule, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, has been heavily criticised by players for some time now, and the Club World Cup’s update has further compounded these frustrations.

Speaking after Belgium’s UEFA Nations League third place play-off match in 2021, goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois heavily criticised football’s overbearing schedule.

“This game is just a money game and we have to be honest about it,” the Real Madrid keeper said. 

“In the end, top players will get injured and injured and injured. We are not robots! It’s just more and more games and less rest for us and nobody cares about us,” he added.

FIFPRO, the global union for professional football players, also condemned FIFA’s decision to introduce a new version of the CWC as well as the host of other international calendar updates it introduced.

The union believes there is potential the increased load could “aggravate pressure on the welfare and employment of players.”

Anything else I should to know?

As many football fans will know, repeat winners of competitions like the Champions League are quite frequent. For example, Real Madrid won three consecutive UCL titles between 2016 and 2018.

FIFA, understanding this reality, introduced ways to mitigate instances where a club wins two or more editions of their confederations premier club competition in the four-year window preceding the Club World Cup.

Should this occur, a club ranking calculated on sporting criteria will be used to grant an additional team access to the tournament.

According to FIFA, there will also be a ‘cap of two clubs per country applied to the access list with an exception in case more than two clubs from the same country win the confederation’s premier club competition over the four-year period’

Football’s governing body also explained ‘further consultation will follow with the confederations and stakeholders to define the calculation mechanisms of the club ranking, which will be based on sporting criteria.’

Moving forward, it appears likely the 2029 FIFA Club World Cup will take place in Australia.

While nothing is confirmed yet, Football Australia’s CEO, James Johnson, stated the nation’s withdrawal from the 2034 World Cup bidding process placed it in a strong position to host the tournament’s 2029 edition, alongside additional international spectacles.

JJ image
FA CEO James Johnson believes Australia is destined to host the 2029 Club World Cup
Picture of Kyle Robbins
Kyle Robbins
Kyle is a senior sports writer and producer at Only Sports who lives and breathes sport, with a particular burning passion for everything soccer, rugby league, and cricket. You’ll most commonly find him getting overly hopeful about the Bulldogs and Chelsea’s prospects. Find Kyle on LinkedIn.

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