Club World Cup 2025: Plans in Disarray as Players’ Union Takes FIFA to Court

In theory, the Club World Cup is a fantastic idea. Taking inspiration from the international version, which is one of the most-watched and loved tournaments in sport – let alone just football, inviting all of the most successful clubs from around the globe to take each other on is a concept that makes sense.

The difficulty is finding room in football’s already hectic schedule for the Club World Cup to take place. FIFA, the organiser of the event, hasn’t always been that receptive to the idea of elite players needing to compete in fewer games for the good of their bodies – such complaints falling on deaf ears.

But now the players are hitting back, having instructed their union, FIFPRO, to launch legal action against FIFA over the burden of their international tournament schedule – with the expanded Club World Cup of 2025 named specifically in the suit as an example of the governing body’s oversight.

It means that FIFA’s hopes of getting a club football version of the World Cup off the ground could be dead in the water.

No Summer Lovin’ for Club World Cup 2025

FIFA Club World CupAs you know, many elite club leagues schedule their seasons from the months of August to May, give or take. It means that the summer months can periodically be set aside for the conveyor belt of international tournaments – the World Cup, European Championships, Copa America, et al. In theory, it means that most players will have two summers off to rest and recuperate every four years – not something that FIFA particularly enjoys.

So, they’ve devised a repackaged format for the World Cup that would see another of those summers filled – with June-July 2025 earmarked for the inaugural edition of a reimagined tournament. As per FIFA’s plans, this 21st edition of the Club World Cup would be expanded to 32 teams, which have been permed from the six confederations of global football: UEFA, AFC, CONMEBOL, CAF, Concacaf, and the OFC.

Clubs can earn their place at the World Cup via the pathways relative to their confederation – for example, in UEFA’s European jurisdiction there would be a number of slots given to the best-performing teams in the Champions League, as well as other ranking criteria based upon domestic league performance. The format would then be the traditional set-up: eight groups of four, with each team in the group playing each other in round robin style. The top two from each group will then proceed to the straight knockout phase of the competition.

With the United States on hosting duty – a dress rehearsal before they welcome the international World Cup in 2026, everything seemed to be going to plan from FIFA’s perspective. But then dissenting voices began to be heard. Are FIFA asking too much of the players? Is it good for the longevity of their careers to be essentially playing 12 months a year for club and country?

Carlo Ancelotti, the ultra-successful Real Madrid head coach, doesn’t think so, and even suggested in the media that his side would refuse their invitation from FIFA to play in the Club World Cup.

A single Real Madrid match is worth 20 million and FIFA wants to give us that amount for the whole cup,” the Italian said. “Negative. Like us, other clubs will refuse the invitation.

However, officials from the Madrid club soon made a U-turn, stating that Real WOULD appear at the 2025 tournament. Ancelotti would later claim on social media that his original sentiments were ‘not interpreted’ in the manner he had intended. But FIFA have been careless in overlooking player power, with FIFPRO’s legal case against the governing body a potentially cataclysmic moment for the governance of football and sport as a whole.


FIFPRO logoRepresentatives from FIFPRO, the players’ union, and the World Leagues Association (WLA) have claimed that they were consulted on the plans for an expanded Club World Cup. They asked FIFA to rethink their concept; something that was rejected out of hand by the governing body’s president Gianni Infantino. And so FIFPRO, whose individual organisations include the Professional Footballers’ Association in the UK and similar bodies around the world, have submitted legal action to a court in Brussels.

“Everyone across football knows that the fixture calendar is broken to the point that it has now become unworkable,” said PFA Chief, Maheta Molango. “There are too many emerging instances across football where the rights of players, and the legal implications of decisions by governing bodies and competition organisers, are seen as something that can just be ignored.”

Although their gripes are wide-ranging, the central theme of their argument is in ‘challenging the legality of FIFA’s decisions to unilaterally set the international match calendar and, in particular, the decision to create and schedule the FIFA Club World Cup 2025.’ Intriguingly, FIFPRO has already assembled its legal team – leading the way will be Jean-Louis Dupont, the lawyer who helped to change the face of football forever in the 1990s when he masterminded the introduction of the Bosman Ruling.

There is no indication as to whether the union’s legal bid will prove to be successful or not, but if the courts do come down on the side of FIFPRO, it will set a fascinating precedent: suddenly, FIFA would not have the power to schedule tournaments without the prior say-so of players and their representatives. If the courts come down on the side of FIFA, however, it opens the door for them to organise a myriad of tournaments as they wish – forcing the players to travel to all four corners of the globe at the end of a long, hard domestic season.