A precursor to the FIFA Club World Cup was contested in January 2000, but it was cancelled in 2001 and it wasn’t until December 2005 that a tournament appeared like we know today.
It took over the earlier Intercontinental Cup that had famously pitted the champions of Europe against the champions of South America each year, initially played as a home and away legged tie, but later as a one-off game in neutral Japan.
The current annual FIFA Club World Cup is contested by just seven teams, the reigning continental champion of each of the six FIFA confederations – UEFA, CONMEBOL, CAF, AFC, CONCACAF and OFC – as well as a representative of the nation hosting the tournament.
But the new expanded version that will kick off in 2021, which was approved by FIFA in March of this year, will have more than three times the number of clubs. It will also only be played once every four years, much like the traditional international World Cup.
Of the 24 competing teams, eight will be from Europe. There will be a further six from South America, giving the two continental powerhouses 14 of the available places between them.
Africa, Asia and North & Central America will be allowed three clubs, while the final spot will be fought over by a representative of Oceania and a representative of the host nation.
According to AP, the European places in 2021 will go to each of the Champions League and Europa League winners from 2018 to 2021. In the event of multiple wins by one club and/or a maximum number of clubs per country, places could be given to runners-up.
In theory, that means Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Liverpool and Chelsea have qualified so far.
As for the six South American places, the 2019 and 2020 winners of the Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana will get four of them, but there is not yet a plan for the remaining two.
The expanded FIFA Club World Cup has not been without controversy as members of the European Club Association (ECA) had threatened to boycott it.
It is also worth noting that the inaugural 2021 tournament will begin just days after the 2020/21 UEFA Nations League finals, which could result in club vs country conflict and, more importantly, the lack of an appropriate summer break for players involved in both.
Additionally, the tournament will overlap with that summer’s Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon, potentially forcing players like Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah to pick one over the over.
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