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FIFA mulling expansion, calendar shift for Club World Cup

FIFA is mulling a significant expansion of the Club World Cup, the annual tournament that pits the winners of the CONCACAF Champions League against the champions of the world’s other five continental confederations plus the host nation’s league winner, a member of FIFA’s ruling council said on Monday.

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A seven-team event founded in 2000 and usually staged in December, the Club World Cup has never featured an MLS team and has been a longstanding target for many of the league’s member clubs. It provides MLS clubs with their only opportunity to face off against world superpowers like Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, River Plate and Bayern Munich in meaningful competition, though it has yet to attain the sort of global cachet enjoyed by the FIFA World Cup and UEFA Champions League.

FIFA may look to change that last part by shifting the Club World Cup’s place on the calendar to summer and expanding its size and scope to 24 teams playing over 18 days for the 2021 edition, possibly in tandem with the dissolution of the Confederations Cup, the quadrennial international tournament now held in the World Cup host nation one year before the main event.

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FIFA Council member Reinhard Grindel, who is president of the German soccer federation, revealed the possibility of a larger, longer Club World Cup in a post on his Facebook page, quickly professing his disapproval of the idea.

“The players need rest and time for recuperation in June,” Grindel wrote. “FIFA should focus on the competitions for national teams.”


The 2000 LA Galaxy are the only MLS team ever to qualify for the Club World Cup, by winning that year’s CONCACAF Champions Cup (the predecessor to CCL). But the 2001 edition of the Club World Cup that LA would have participated in – originally to be held in Spain – was cancelled due to the collapse of ISL, FIFA’s marketing affiliate, and other factors.

Mexican clubs have won the CCL in all nine of the tournament’s years of existence; D.C. United’s 1998 squad are the only other MLS team besides LA to have earned the right to be called regional champions, by virtue of winning that year’s CONCACAF Champions Cup. A larger Club World Cup would likely offer more than one berth for the North American region.

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Real Salt Lake (2010) and the Montreal Impact (2015) are the MLS teams that have come closest to winning CCL, reaching the tournament final but falling to Liga MX opposition in heartbreaking fashion at that juncture.