FIFA and business: A total transformation of the Club World Cup. FIFA

The Club World Cup will have a new format, completely different from the current one and very similar to the recent World Cups: 32 teams, every four years with group stage and playoffs leading to the final.

FIFA has announced a radical change to the most important tournament that brings together club associations from around the world. With these changes, the Club World Cup will try to resemble the world's most prestigious sporting event - the best teams from the five continents playing on equal terms for almost a month.

As with the FIFA World Cup for national teams, Europe will have a greater presence than the rest of the world, and South America (CONMEBOL) will also have a proportional representation. History, power (and, of course, business) prevail over a fair representation based on the number of member countries. The motive is to ensure the presence of the best teams at the event, thereby increasing the chances of reaching the finals to secure television and ticket sales, resulting in better and increased revenues from the major sponsors.

This inaugural edition has already secured the participation of Real Madrid, considered by many to be the most important team in the world, who will be aiming to win the Club World Cup with 14 European titles under their belt. Manchester City, champions of the English Premier League, will also take part, along with other top teams such as Flamengo of Brazil and Bayern Munich. They will be in the United States from 13 June to 15 July 2025. 

The format of the tournament will be identical to that of Qatar 2022, where Messi's national team will take part. Eight groups of four teams, three guaranteed matches, with the top two teams progressing to the knockout stage. From there to the final, emotional play-offs will determine the best club in the world, not national teams. 

FIFA President Gianni Infantino had originally planned to launch the tournament in 2021, but faced internal and external challenges. He said. "Clubs play a fundamental role in world football, and the FIFA Club World Cup 2025 will be an important milestone in giving clubs from all confederations the right platform to shine at the highest level of the game," he said.

Whether it's sporting fairness or Gianni Infantino's desire to promote clubs from all confederations, which have always been overshadowed by FIFA itself, these changes are being made. For years, the Intercontinental Cup pitted the UEFA champion against the CONMEBOL champion. Twenty years ago, other confederations were involved, but now UEFA and CONMEBOL meet in the semi-finals, while the others have to qualify, as is currently the case in Saudi Arabia. 

In the new Intercontinental Cup, which is about to be reintroduced, the UEFA participant will play in the final, while the others have to qualify through a knockout stage. This flies in the face of merit and sporting fairness, not to mention equality and league promotion. Or is it for economic reasons, given that the best players, or at least the most marketable ones, players are no longer to be found in the traditional big leagues (Spain, Italy, England, Germany, etc.) and have begun to migrate to other regions, such as the United States or Saudi Arabia, where their presence is required because of commercial pressure? 

With this format, FIFA is guaranteeing a mini UEFA Champions League alongside a mini Copa Libertadores de América and the definite possibility of including teams with stars such as Messi, Benzema, or Cristiano Ronaldo, as well as others who are taking football to lesser-known countries. All competing in the same month in a tournament that will be spectacular for the fans, although the main beneficiary will be the organiser, in this case, FIFA, and not the second-tier confederations that make up the tournament (UEFA, CONMEBOL, or others).

Whatever the reason, the current format will be scrapped in favour of a four-yearly Club World Cup, with the champions qualifying on sporting merit and a ranking system - though the latter remains unclear - to keep them in order (or to keep them playing even if they haven't won a trophy). The best (or at least the most marketable) teams will be there, and the business of football will continue stronger than ever, now competing on an equal footing (beyond the usual arrangement of favourites to avoid early clashes) for the best club in the football world.

Distribution of teams:

As mentioned above, UEFA (Europe) will have 12 teams, CONMEBOL (South America) six, while CAF (Africa), AFC (Asia), and CONCACAF (North America) will each have four places, and OFC (Oceania) one. 

In the world's most popular team competition, four European places will be awarded to the winners of the Champions League from 2021. Chelsea, Real Madrid and Manchester City have already secured their places and will be joined by the winner in 2024. Five other clubs from the continent have already qualified for the 2025 tournament through their UEFA ranking: Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich, Inter Milan, Porto and Benfica. 

The second most important team competition in the world, the South American league, will have 6 teams. The last four winners of the Copa Libertadores (CONMEBOL Libertadores) will qualify, with two teams qualifying based on the table. Three Brazilian teams have already secured their places: Palmeiras, Flamengo, and Fluminense, the winners of the last three editions of the most important tournament outside of Europe, as well as the 2024 champions and the top two teams in the aforementioned ranking.