FIFA president Infantino pitches sweeping changes to Club World Cup
GENEVA (AP) — FIFA President Gianni Infantino thinks the mostly unloved Club World Cup could expand to a 32-team tournament played in June.
Infantino said in interviews published on Friday in Italian and Spanish newspapers that a revamped club competition could start in 2019.
A 32-team event played in the last three weeks of June would be more balanced and more attractive to broadcasters and sponsors, Infantino said in comments reported by the Gazzetta dello Sport and El Mundo Deportivo dailies.
Infantino's suggestion also follows speculation that China wants to host more international football as part of a wide-ranging plan to invest heavily in the sport.
Last year, Chinese retailer Alibaba E-Auto signed as the Club World Cup title sponsor through 2022.
The existing seven-team Club World Cup format in December has been seen as vulnerable in a FIFA review of spending and tournament plans since Infantino was elected president in February.
The 2015 Club World Cup in Japan earned a little over $20 million in commercial revenue, according to FIFA's most recent financial report. The 2014 edition hosted by Morocco earned $40 million.
The latest FIFA tournament expansion plan follows Infantino promoting a 48-team World Cup to start in 2026. That decision could be taken by FIFA's ruling council at a Jan. 9-10 meeting in Zurich.
Currently, the Club World Cup is a little-watched event featuring the champions of FIFA's six continental confederations, plus the host nation's league winner.
Typically, it leads to a final between the champions of Europe and South America. European fans have shown little interest in a competition that also clashes with their domestic leagues.
Japan hosts next month's edition featuring Real Madrid and Atletico Nacional of Colombia.