China is set to be appointed host of the inaugural edition of an expanded football Club World Cup in 2021.
The New York Times and the Associated Press reported yesterday that the decision will be made at this week’s Fifa Council meeting in Shanghai, which begins Thursday.
The new tournament will have 24 teams, will take place every four years, and will replace both the Confederations Cup national team tournament and the existing annual, seven-team Club World Cup.
China is only the host under consideration for the first edition, in June and July 2021.
The Fifa Council approved the format for the new club tournament in March, despite opposition from some European clubs and officials. Reports indicate that the European clubs are set to back the latest plan, and will allow eight teams from the continent to compete in each edition.
Fifa president Gianni Infantino has clashed with Uefa over his desire to revamp the competition, as well as to potentially introduce a new global ‘nations league’ national team tournament. Infantino last year sensationally presented to the Fifa Council a $25bn offer from a secretive group of investors to take control of a revamped Club World Cup and global Nations League. He had to back down on the proposal following opposition led by European officials. The affair led to public rift between Infantino and Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin.
It thought Infantino wants the expanded Club World Cup to raise the profile of teams from outside Europe. Places in the competition are expected to be awarded to the winners of the Uefa Champions League and Europa League over four seasons, and the winners of the other confederations continental club tournaments. Fox Sports reports that previously-seen plans for the tournament involved six teams from South America; three teams each from Africa, Asia and Concacaf (North and Central America, and the Caribbean); and one team from Oceania. The tournament would start with eight groups of three, with group winners moving forward to the quarter-finals.
The award of the hosting rights to China will be a boost to the country’s efforts to grow its football industry and increase its competitiveness on the pitch. The Chinese government and private industry have been investing heavily in the sport as part of government plans to grow the country’s wider sports industry. Football is a particular focus as it is a favoured sport of President Xi Jinping, who wants the country to host the Fifa World Cup in the near future.