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Report: 2021 Club World Cup to be played in China

We also learn more about how teams would qualify.

Al Ain v Real Madrid: Final - FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2018 Photo by Michael Regan - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images

According to a report by Rob Harris of the Associated Press, FIFA is set to meet this week to confirm that China will be the host of the newly revamped Club World Cup in 2021. The 2021 edition would expand the field from 7 teams to 24, and it would be contested every 4 years going forward. The 2019 and 2020 tournaments will be hosted in Qatar and be the final ones under the current format.

The qualification procedures for teams in each confederation will also be confirmed by FIFA when they meet. One of the main limits is a cap on the number of teams from a single country that can qualify for the 24-team field. That means some winners of regional competitions that come from one country may be excluded, as FIFA and the confederations prefer a maximum of 2 teams from a particular country to play.

The number of slots that each confederation is expected to have in this tournament are:

UEFA - 8



AFC - 3

CAF - 3

Oceania/CSL champion - 1

The confederations will each have their own qualification procedures. In CONCACAF, there could be a chance for a Major League Soccer team from the United States or Canada to qualify. A team from Mexico has won all 11 CONCACAF Nations League titles, and all but 3 finals have been all-Mexican affairs. The 2021 Champions League finalists will qualify for the 2021 Club World Cup, and there is a 3rd slot that hasn’t been determined. However, with CONCACAF limiting the number of teams from a nation that can qualify to 2, MLS should be looking to 2021 for the way to become competitive in the region and advance to the Champions League finals or semifinals to set up a chance to qualify. No MLS team has ever participated in the current format of the Club World Cup.

In Europe, all Champions League and Europa League winners from 2018-2021 will qualify, but a winner from Spain or England, for example, could miss out. Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid won the 2018 Champions League and Europa League, respectively, while Liverpool and Chelsea were the 2019 winners. If UEFA sets a maximum number of teams at 2, that would mean some non-winners will be invited to the Club World Cup. This is also possible should a team win multiple competitions in that four-year span.

Four of the South American spots are given to the 2019 and 2020 winners of the Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana. The AP could not confirm how the final two CONMEBOL slots would be determined.

Asia will have the 2019 and 2020 AFC Champions League winners qualify, and the runners-up from those two years will have a playoff for the third slot. If a winner repeats or a country reaches its 2-team max, there will be playoffs among semifinalists from those two years to fill the slots.

Africa will simply have the 2021 CAF Champions League finalists qualify directly, with the semifinalists from that year competing in a playoff for the third spot (assuming no 2-team max per nation is reached).

The Oceania Champions League winner will play the champion of the Chinese Super League to determine the final spot, leaving Oceania as the only confederation without a guaranteed slot in the new Club World Cup. The 2021 Club World Cup is expected to run June 17-July 4, 2021, which will replace the Confederations Cup. The 2021 Gold Cup and the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations will move back to July under the proposal.

MLS will have 5 more teams that will qualify for the 2020 CONCACAF Champions League with a shot at advancing to the final Club World Cup under the current format. The Montreal Impact will represent Canada in the competition as the Canadian Championship winners, while Los Angeles Football Club, Atlanta United, New York City FC, and the Seattle Sounders will represent the United States. Still, when the big tournament is confirmed, all eyes will turn to CONCACAF to determine which teams will have a chance to head to China in 2021 to represent the region against the best collection of clubs in the world.