FIFA began the process Thursday of sorting out how to fit international games into soccer’s congested schedule from 2024, with complex talks expected to find agreement with clubs, leagues and player unions.
The so-called International Match Calendar decides the dates for national team games — when clubs must release players — for at least four years ahead. That includes the World Cup, continental championships, qualifying campaigns and friendlies.
Figuring out the next four-year calendar promises to be tricky as European clubs push UEFA toward expanding the current Champions League format.
FIFA has added to the congestion by creating a 24-team Club World Cup that kicks off in June 2021, and committing more players to a 48-team World Cup in 2026.
FIFA said it set up a working group of officials representing national federations, clubs, leagues, and the global players’ union FIFPro. It will be chaired by Victor Montagliani, a FIFA vice president who leads North American soccer body CONCACAF.
“It’s incredibly important,” Jonas Baer-Hoffmann, the union’s general secretary, told The Associated Press in a recent interview.
“On the elite level, you see that the amount of load the players are carrying is simply putting players to the brink.”
The current international calendar runs through December 2024. That’s the season when Europe’s top clubs want to overhaul the Champions League and increase their guaranteed number of games.
There are also conflicting interests from FIFA’s member federations and the player’s union.
The federations want to retain the number of revenue-earning games played by their national teams — currently at least 18 spread over two years. Those games are currently played in double-header weeks, but clubs will push for more games to be be played in fewer call-up periods.
“If we can rebundle this in any way possible it would be very good for us,” European Club Association leader Andrea Agnelli, the Juventus president, said last year.
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By 2028, continental events played in odd-numbered years — the African Cup of Nations, Asian Cup, CONCACAF Gold Cup — could come into alignment with the European Championship and Copa America which are already on the 2020-2024 cycle.
That would please European clubs who want stability in knowing when players will be away with national teams. It also clears June in odd-numbered years for FIFA competitions like the Club World Cup.
FIFA gave no timetable for the working group to report back to its Stakeholders Committee, which met Thursday in Zurich.
Also at the meeting:
- More teams to qualify directly for reshaped Women’s Champions League - UEFA
- ECB launch cricket regulator to tackle discrimination
- Real Madrid defender Carvajal out until next year due to calf injury
- Manchester City charged by FA over player conduct in Spurs draw
- ISL 2023: East Bengal blanks NorthEast United 5-0; Silva, Sekar shine