Fifa Club World Cup: Will European teams make it 10 in a row? And when is the competition expanding to 32 teams?
The dust has barely settled on Qatar 2022 and already the next Fifa jamboree, the Club World Cup, is about to begin in another destination with big hosting ambitions.
Chelsea won last year in Abu Dhabi but won’t be defending their title in Morocco over the next 10 days, since they didn’t qualify via the Champions League.
Despite the absence of English teams, there is still plenty of intrigue, not least in the presence of a first ever qualifier from Major League Soccer.
Real Madrid aim to extend Euro monopoly of Club World Cup
European clubs have won the last nine editions of the Club World Cup, so Real Madrid, this year’s Uefa representative, will start as the firm favourites.
The Spanish giants are seeking their fifth title and some respite from their stuttering form in LaLiga, where they currently trail rivals Barcelona by five points.
Seattle set for US first: Who else is playing?
South American champions Flamengo, whose stars include Arturo Vidal and Gabriel Barbosa, are the next biggest side involved and, like Real Madrid, will enter at the semi-final stage.
Before then Al Ahly of Egypt, Auckland City, Wydad Casablanca, Al-Hilal and Seattle Sounders will battle it out for the other two places in the last four.
The Sounders, marking a debut for MLS teams, face the winner of Wednesday’s game between Al Ahly and Auckland in the second round for a chance to play Real Madrid.
The hosts: Morocco get third bite of Club World Cup cherry
Morocco is staging the Club World Cup for a third time in the latest attempt to underline its credentials as a possible host of the men’s World Cup.
The country has the unwanted distinction of bidding unsuccessfully on five occasions but, encouraged by the national team’s run in Qatar, has hopes of staging in the big one in 2030.
Games this week will take place at the 65,000-capacity Ibn Batouta Stadium in Tangier and Rabat’s Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium, which holds 60,000.
When is it happening? Club World Cup schedule and how to watch
This is technically the 2022 Club World Cup as it was pushed back a few weeks from its usual December slot to avoid a clash with Fifa’s chief event last month.
It kicks off on Wednesday, with the second round matches set for Saturday and the big guns joining the semi-final line-up on 7 and 8 January before the final on 11 February.
Most games kick off at 7pm GMT and all matches are being streamed live in the UK on the world governing body’s OTT platform Fifa+.
The future: Isn’t it supposed to be expanding?
This looks like being one of the last Club World Cups in its current seven-team format, with Fifa eager to beef it up into a money-spinning summer spectacular.
Those plans suffered a hitch during the pandemic, when the first proposed 24-team edition, to be held in China, was cancelled because of the pandemic.
Undeterred by that and the concerns of players’ unions, Fifa announced in December that the Club World Cup will become a 32-team affair held every four years from 2025.