Skip to content

Gianni Infantino: FIFA to launch new 32-team men's Club World Cup and will 'rediscuss' 2026 World Cup group stage format

Gianni Infantino reveals new Club World Cup concept with 32 teams from 2025; FIFA president also admits 2026 World Cup group stage format to be 'rediscussed' over 16 groups of three or 12 groups of four; FIFA also announces plans to launch new friendly 'World Series' tournament

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Kaveh Solhekol explains how FIFA have decided to expand the Club World Cup to 32 teams in a Champions League style format for 2025

Gianni Infantino says FIFA will launch a new 32-team men's Club World Cup starting in 2025 and revealed they will 'rediscuss' the 2026 World Cup group stage format.

The new Club World Cup concept was initially meant to launch in China in 2021 with 24 teams but was cancelled due to the pandemic - and is now set for a further expansion from June 2025.

Meanwhile, the current World Cup format, in place since 1998 which sees 32 teams drawn into eight groups of four, is also set to change at the expanded 48-team tournament in four years' time with the FIFA Council choosing in 2017 for the nations to be split into 16 groups of three.

However, after the dramatic finale to the group stages in Qatar, Infantino, speaking at a press conference for the first time since his controversial speech on the eve of the tournament, revealed the group stage format could yet change.

Infantino said: "We have approved a 48-team World Cup format with 16 groups of three, of which the top two would then move to a knockout phase of 32, followed by 16, eight, four and then two.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

FIFA president Gianni Infantino described the opening stages of the World Cup as the 'best ever' and the tournament a 'fantastic success' as well as adding that there are no small teams any more

"I have to say that after this World Cup and the success of the groups of four, and looking as well at some other competitions like the Euros for example where you have 24 teams and the top two plus the best third ones go to the next stage.

"Here, the groups of four have been absolutely incredible in the sense that until the last minute of the last match, you wouldn't know who goes through. We will have to revisit or at least rediscuss the format - whether we go for 16 groups of three or 12 groups of four. This is something that will certainly be on the agenda in the next meetings."

Also See:

Infantino's review of Qatar World Cup:

  • Average attendance: 52,760
  • Biggest attendance: 88,966 - Argentina vs Mexico
  • 1.7m people attended FIFA fan festival
  • 62 matches so far 'without incident'
  • No team has won every game and teams from all continents moved to the knockout stage for the first time
  • First time a woman refereed a match - Stephanie Frappart - Germany vs Costa Rica
  • First time an African nations at the semi-finals - Morocco
  • Viewing and audience figures to be announced after final but 'approaching 5bn mark'

Carragher: European clubs should boycott new Club World Cup

Sky Sports' Jamie Carragher believes over-used players are being "treated like cattle" and European clubs should boycott the new Club World Cup format.

He tweeted: "Like the ridiculous idea of the World Cup every two years, this is another one from Infantino.

"Players need rest at some point, they are getting treated like cattle. FIFA hate the Champions League & want something similar themselves. European clubs should boycott it."

Premier League yet to see FIFA plans

The Premier League have not seen any formal proposals from FIFA about the expanded Club World Cup in 2025 or an expanded 2026 men's World Cup.

The Premier League are open to continuing engagement with FIFA, via the World League's Forum, to ensure there are no radical changes to the international calendar that will affect the domestic league structure and player welfare.

They are expecting meaningful agreements to be reached with the leagues before anything is signed-off.

FIFA's new plans for football

Infantino, who branded the Qatar World Cup as the "best ever", revealed a number of decisions following a FIFA council meeting, including plans to launch a new friendly 'World Series' tournament to take place in even years involving four teams, each selected from four different confederations.

The FIFA president confirmed the 2022 Club World Cup will be held in Morocco from February 1 to 11 next year and will feature seven teams, including Real Madrid as European champions. The larger competition, set for 2025, will take place every four years.

FIFA Football Agent Regulations approved

The FIFA Council approved the FIFA Football Agent Regulations, which seek to introduce basic service standards for football agents and their clients, including a mandatory licensing system, the prohibition of multiple representation to avoid conflicts of interest and the introduction of a cap on commissions, whose objective is to reinforce contractual stability, protect the integrity of the transfer system and achieve greater financial transparency.

The international match calendar will also be altered from 2025, with one extended break spanning four matches in late September and early October replacing two separate windows in September and October. The other windows in November, March and June would remain unchanged.

The hosts for the men's World Cup in 2030 will be decided in 2024 and the Women's World Cup for 2031 will be decided in 2025. Infantino announced a desire to create a new women's Club World Cup, a new Futsal Women's World Cup and expand the Olympic Games Women's tournament from 12 to 16 teams.

Infantino's long FIFA reign

Infantino also confirmed his intention to stay on as president until 2031 by seeking a third full term when he is re-elected for a second four-year stint next March. FIFA confirmed Infantino’s spell in charge between 2016 and 2019 - when he completed an unfinished term started by Sepp Blatter - does not count as a term of office against the 12-year limit. It will mean Infantino would have been in charge of FIFA for 15 years if he stays until 2031.

The proposals also include revising FIFA's youth tournament inventory - including expanded annual Under-17 tournaments, both for boys and girls.

How will the 32-team Club World Cup work?

FIFA president Gianni Infantino
Image: FIFA president Gianni Infantino announced a 32-team Club World Cup to start in 2025

FIFA president Gianni Infantino:

"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.

"I don't know what the British press says or doesn't say, but I know what we've decided and that is that there will be a Club World Cup of 32 teams to 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 so it will last a bit longer but they will be the best teams in the world who will all be invited to participate.

"But all of the details will be developed in due course and we will decide where it will take place as well over the next few weeks or months in consultation with all of the stakeholders.

"The FIFA Council has taken the decision now as a matter of principle to hold that Club World Cup. Don't forget that we were the only football organisation in the world, at least at international level, not to have organised a competition during the pandemic.

"Everyone else postponed their competitions but then shortened them or played them [at a later date] but we had a Club World Cup planned in 2020 with 24 teams that was cancelled. It wasn't replaced or postponed, and we did that because we wanted to allow for the Copa America, the European Championships and we wanted to protect the health and well-being of players.

"We didn't want to over-burden the calendar. That brings me to another issue and allows me to underscore that when we talk about the [FIFA] product over the next four years, the Club World Cup is not included in that $11bn forecast. That forecast is without taking into account this Club World Cup. So I think we're going to have an even greater sum that we'll be able to invest in world football over the next four years."

'European clubs don't want to be playing more games'

Sky Sports News chief reporter Kaveh Solhekol in Qatar:

"FIFA have decided to press ahead with plans to have an expanded Club World Cup in 2025. Infantino says it's going to be the best teams from around the world and he says it's going to be just like this World Cup but instead of having countries, you're going to have clubs. It is going to be controversial, because if you look at the match calendar, how are you going to fit all these games in?

"How are you going to fit in a new tournament and a new competition for clubs? We've heard from Premier League managers and managers of other European clubs as well who have said they are against this, and by and large, most of the European clubs are against it as well as they don't want to be playing more games.

"But, of course, business is business and I think if they were offered enough prize money to take part in this new FIFA competition then I'm sure that would change their minds. In terms of where this first Club World Cup is likely to be, the early indication we're getting from FIFA is that they would like it to be in the United States.

"The next World Cup in 2026 is going to be in Canada, Mexico and the United States and if the Club World Cup does go ahead I think it's likely to be in the USA. UEFA and European clubs are against it, but as far as Gianni Infantino is concerned that doesn't matter.

"The major problem FIFA have is the bulk of their revenue comes from the World Cup and that only happens every four years. So what they want is another competition - something like the Champions League - which will get more money coming into their coffers."

'FIFA's unilateral decisions on the calendar damaging for football industry'

A statement from The World Leagues Forum (WLF), said: "The World Leagues Forum (WLF), the world association of professional football leagues, has been informed that the FIFA Council has today made significant decisions about the international match calendar that could have damaging consequences for the football economy and player welfare.

"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.

"FIFA announced a 32-team Club World Cup in 2025 and decided key principles for the new International Match Calendar post-2024. FIFA also announced its intention to review the men's World Cup format in 2026 to potentially include significantly more games with groups of 4 teams instead of 3 as initially agreed.

"As the calendar is already overloaded, with longstanding domestic club competitions and ever-expanding international competitions, FIFA's decision creates the risk of fixture congestion, further player injuries and a distortion of competitive balance.

"The interests of the football community, which we expect FIFA to take care of, are not best-served by piling-up FIFA-owned matches which only involve the top 1% of players. Instead, we should all expect FIFA to create the environment for a complementary balance between domestic and international football for the benefit of the whole game.

"The WLF is contacting FIFA to ask for a transparent process for their calendar and competition decisions, which must involve meaningful agreements with the leagues.

"We will convene a board meeting in January to review FIFA's response and assess the impact their proposals could have on the foundations of the game at domestic level."

Super 6 Million Returns!
Super 6 Million Returns!

Make yourself a millionaire with Super 6. Play for free, entries by 3pm Boxing Day.

Around Sky