Infantino gives FIFA wish list of new and revamped events

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — A 32-team men’s Club World Cup in 2025. A new version of the tournament for women. National teams from different continents playing each other more often between World Cups.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino shared his wish list Friday to create and revamp games and events under the soccer body’s control — and provoked criticism in Europe from officials left sidelined by the tactical move.

A “FIFA World Series” was floated of four-team friendly tournaments in March before major championships in even-numbered years, plus combining the international breaks in September and October to a single block of four national team games.

Some of the ideas are not new, but the debate and announcement in Qatar two days before the World Cup final still caught soccer officials in Europe by surprise.

“We will now consult on all of these topics and then elaborate on all the details,” Infantino said at a news conference after the 37-member FIFA Council agreed on “strategic principles” for new competitions.

Members of the European Club Association and European Leagues groups said they were scrambling to learn the unexpected details of FIFA’s plans.

“These decisions have been made unilaterally without consulting, let alone agreeing, with those who are directly affected by them: The leagues, their member clubs, the players and fans,” the Zurich-based World Leagues Forum said.

A Club World Cup of 24 teams was due in 2021 in China but was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, though no tournament format had been agreed to nor commercial partners signed.

Infantino committed FIFA to a 32-team version in 2 ½ years, one week after failing to secure a working agreement in Doha with the influential ECA and one day after the proposed Super League project endured another setback in court in Luxembourg.

“The 32-team tournament will go ahead, making it really like a World Cup,” Infantino said about an event in June-July 2025 that would require some teams to play six or seven games.

The global players’ union FIFPRO, which also reached only a limited working deal with FIFA in Qatar this month, said the plans could “aggravate pressure on the welfare and employment of players.”

“Once again, decisions to scale competitions without implementing appropriate safeguards are short-sighted and pay no attention to players’ health and performance,” the Netherlands-based union said.

It is unclear how clubs would qualify for their global event — potentially worth tens of millions of dollars to each in prize money — or how many entries each continent would get, though Europe would likely have 12.

“The details, the location and so on still need to be discussed, agreed and decided,” Infantino said.

Former England and Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher, who is now a broadcaster on British television, called it a “ridiculous idea.”

“Players need rest at some point, they are getting treated like cattle,” Carragher wrote on Twitter. “FIFA hate the (Champions League) & want something similar themselves. European clubs should boycott it.”

A women’s Club World Cup is less controversial and has been a FIFA target since the 2019 World Cup in France. No new details were given Friday.

Citing surprising results at this year’s World Cup, with European and South American teams beaten by African and Asian opponents, Infantino said FIFA wanted teams from different regions to meet more often.

Space in the congested calendar of international games could be found in March in years when a World Cup, European Championship or Copa América is scheduled, Infantino said.

He suggested a “FIFA World Series” for friendly games between four teams, each from a different continent.

Drafting a new FIFA-managed calendar to start in 2025 has long been a pressing issue in the soccer industry, but stalled when it became mixed with Infantino’s failed push last year for playing World Cups every two years.

FIFA had suggested playing all qualifying games for national team tournaments in two blocks — one in the spring, one in the fall — to replace the current system of nine double-headers spread over two years.

The latest compromise is for a four-game block in the fall that would shut down domestic leagues for back-to-back weekends but would mean one fewer long-haul return trip for national team players.

Infantino restated proposals to organize annual Under-17 World Cups for boys and girls starting in 2024, and to add four women’s teams to the Olympic tournament.

A 16-team women’s Olympic tournament would be the same as the men’s event, but the addition would require the IOC and organizers to find space for about 70 extra athletes, plus team officials.

Infantino also confirmed that FIFA wants to pick hosts in 2024 for the 2030 World Cup and the 2027 Women’s World Cup.

The host for the 2031 women’s tournament is expected to be picked in 2025 “in order to really align men and women,” Infantino said.

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