Qatar 2022 deemed 'best World Cup ever', Morocco to host next Club World Cup

Fifa president Infantino announces plans to expand the Club World Cup to 32 teams in 2025

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Fifa president Gianni Infantino has described the 2022 World Cup as “an incredible success”, while he confirmed Morocco as hosts of the next Fifa Club World Cup and also the competition’s expansion to 32 teams in 2025.

Football’s world governing body chief was speaking at a press conference in Doha on Friday, in which he said the four-year cycle for Qatar 2022 had generated $7.5 billion – more than $1bn more than the previous World Cup.

Infantino said Fifa estimates the 2026 finals, held in the United States, Canada and Mexico, and expanded from 32 teams to 48, will bring in $11bn, with “almost $10bn going directly back to football”.

Infantino referenced the "unanimous praise of the Fifa Council for this World Cup, and for the unique cohesive power this World Cup has shown", saying that everyone involved in its organisation had made it the "best World Cup ever".

'World Cup 2022 an incredible success'

“Matches have been played without incidents; it has been a very joyful atmosphere," Infantino said. "There is something happening when we talk about football becoming truly global, with an African team [Morocco] reaching the semi-final for the first time. We also had a woman, Stephanie Frappart, referee a match for the first time."

Infantino, who has been re-elected unopposed for a second term as president, later said: “The World Cup has been an incredible success on all fronts. The main one being the fans, the behaviour, the joyful atmosphere, the bringing of people together. The fans meeting the Arab world. It has been very important for the future of all of us."

Infantino said 3.27 million spectators have attended matches – two of the 64, the third-place play-off and the final, remain – and that the tournament was “approaching five billion in terms of viewing figures".

Morocco to host rescheduled Club World Cup

Morocco, one of the success stories of Qatar 2022, has been awarded the rescheduled 2022 Club World Cup, which will be held from February 1-11. Morocco hosted the tournament in 2013 and in 2014, while the most recent edition was staged in Abu Dhabi last February.

The competition will remain in its existing format, with the six continental-federation champions featuring with the host nation’s league champions. Real Madrid, who won the 2014 title, will headline, with Brazil’s Flamengo, Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal and Morocco’s Wydad Casablanca also taking part.

Infantino said a sizeable extension to the Club World Cup will begin in 2025. Fifa had originally decided to introduce an expanded 24-team tournament in 2021 in China, only for the Covid-19 pandemic to scupper plans.

On Friday, Infantino did not provide any further details regarding the 2025 Club World Cup, but said a 32-team tournament would “make it really like a World Cup”.

The Fifa president also praised the Morocco national team for their history-making run to the semi-finals. Walid Regragui’s side became the first Arab country to reach the quarter-finals, and then the first African nation to contest the tournament’s last four.

Morocco were defeated 2-0 in Wednesday’s semi-final by France, the reigning champions. They face Croatia on Saturday for third place.

Africa on the rise

"Morocco has played exceptionally well, with a great desire and undeniable quality,” Infantino said. “Reaching a semi-final is not done by chance, a result of a long-term effort.

"I would like to congratulate the other African teams as well. Senegal made it out of the group stage for example, having not done so last time.

"For many decades we have been talking about the development of African football and when their time will come - and I think their time has come. There will be double the African teams at the next World Cup, and I am sure we can look forward to some more excellent performances."

Infantino announced plans to introduce a women’s Club World Cup and the “Fifa World Series”.

"We have seen the importance of teams from different continents happening more regularly," he said. "We want to use the March [international] windows in even years to organise friendly tournaments between four teams of four different confederations under the Fifa umbrella - 'Fifa World Series' events.

"For women’s football, it will be very similar. We want to create a new women’s Club World Cup and a new Fifa Futsal Women’s World Cup every four years. We would like to see if the women’s Olympic tournament can have 16 teams like the men’s does."

Plans for 2026 World Cup

On the expanded 2026 World Cup, Infantino said Fifa had decided to reassess plans to incorporate 16 groups of three teams at the tournament. The current format comprises four-team groups.

Infantino, who confirmed his second term as president will begin on March 16, said: “I have to say after this World Cup, and the success of the groups of four, we have to revisit or re-discuss the format whether we go for 16 groups of three or 12 groups of four.”

Infantino said he believes the 2026 World Cup will help make football the most popular sport in America.

“We are bullish about the power of football," he said. "About what we believe the impact of football, or soccer, we are more than bullish.

"We are convinced the impact of the game will be massive. It has been massive here, it will be incredible in North America: 48 teams, more games, revenues will go up.

"We will play in huge stadiums, stadiums which are normally used for American football – 80,000-90,000. A lot of attractions for fans; we are expecting 5.5 million fans travelling for these events.

“We are convinced football will be booming in North America. We are really convinced of the growth."

Tranformative change

Infantino was asked what he will take away from the experience of the 2022 World Cup, saying: “You should ask the people who came here from different continents. What has been achieved here in the Middle East has been quite unique. Everyone goes home with a nice memory, and I am sure they will come back.

"Only the World Cup can do this in such a massive, massive way. It has to be an ambition and mission of Fifa to organise its events in new countries."

Asked about the “transformative change” the Qatar event will leave, Infantino said: “I will wait until the end of the final to judge this World Cup, but already the transformative legacy of this World Cup is that many people from around the world have come to Qatar and have discovered the Arab world, which they didn’t know or knew only for what was portrayed to them.

"The main legacy is those who came and those who were here to welcome. You can spend time together and enjoy and know each better. These people who go home will speak about their experience and will open up more to the others. This is an important non-football legacy that this World Cup has brought.

"One of the main concerns was linked with safety and security; 32 countries all here at the same time and same place. We didn’t know how the people would react. Would they start fighting with each other?

"We have seen human beings are mentally good and positive, because people just come together and the more international the better. They come together to pursue their passion. We had no single incident - this is quite unique.

"The World Cup has contributed a little to a mutual understanding – it is something very positive from a non-football perspective."

Updated: December 17, 2022, 7:15 AM