China set to host first expanded Club World Cup in 2021

The decision to award the hosting rights to China will be announced on Friday (Oct 25) in Shanghai after it is confirmed in a vote of Fifa's governing council.
The decision to award the hosting rights to China will be announced on Friday (Oct 25) in Shanghai after it is confirmed in a vote of Fifa's governing council.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK • Fifa plans to grant China the rights to host the inaugural version of its expanded Club World Cup, a 24-team event in 2021 that will feature some of the world's biggest teams and provide a cash infusion for the world football's governing body.

The decision to award the hosting rights to China will be announced on Friday in Shanghai after it is confirmed in a vote of Fifa's governing council at its quarterly meeting, according to several officials.

European football officials, who had strongly opposed an expanded tournament for clubs when the plans were raised, will now provide a third of the teams in the competition.

The new quadrennial event, announced in March, will replace the unpopular Confederations Cup, an eight-team tournament that in recent versions had acted as a tune-up for World Cup hosts.

It also will mean the demise of the Club World Cup as an annual event.

Under its current format, seven teams will play in Qatar, the 2022 World Cup hosts, both this year and next.

In choosing China as the first host of the expanded Club World Cup, Fifa will be rewarding a country that, since a 2015 government edict made football a national priority, has spent billions of dollars on coaching programmes and sponsorship agreements.

There have also been huge investments in the Chinese Super League, which has managed to lure top players like Brazilian Oscar, by offering some of the biggest wages in football.

Hosting the new club championship could also be a boost for a likely Chinese bid to host the 2030 World Cup, with Fifa president Gianni Infantino hinting in June that it was "possible".

The new event is likely to produce a significant bump in revenue for Fifa, which has traditionally relied on the men's World Cup for almost all of its income.

Infantino is also said to be keen to use the expanded Club World Cup as a springboard to raise the profile of teams outside Europe, notably in Asia and the United States.

The co-hosts of the 2026 World Cup - US, Mexico and Canada - are likely to stage the second expanded club tournament in 2025.

NY TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 22, 2019, with the headline 'China set to host first expanded Club World Cup in 2021'. Print Edition | Subscribe