BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
FIFA bestowed the honor of hosting the upcoming Club World Cup in February to Morocco on Friday as it expands the tournament to a 32-team edition in 2025.
European champion Real Madrid, South American champion Flamengo and Seattle Sounders, the first CONCACAF Champions League winner from the United States, will play in the traditional seven-team tournament from Feb. 1-11.
After Morocco’s inspiring run to the World Cup semifinals in Qatar, the country will now stage the next global football event in six weeks’ time, FIFA’s ruling council decided.
It will be one of the last seven-team editions for continental champions with an expanded, monthlong tournament planned to start in 2025.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino said the intended change was “making it really like a World Cup.”
In Morocco, Casablanca should stage games with the city set to provide two teams in the 10-day competition, which features continental champions from each of the six confederations in world football.
Wydad won Africa’s Champions League last season and also the Moroccan league. The place FIFA reserves for the host nation’s domestic champion should revert to league runner-up Raja. Both teams are based in Casablanca, where the 67,000-seat Stade Mohammed V is the likely venue for some of the eight Club World Cup games.
Morocco also hosted Club World Cups in 2013 and 2014, which were won by Bayern Munich and Real Madrid, respectively
Only European and South American teams have won the Club World Cup since it was revived in the current format in 2005.
FIFA has long wanted to launch an expanded version with 24 or 32 teams in a tournament played in June.
A planned inaugural edition in 2021 in China was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, though no tournament format had been agreed upon nor broadcasters or sponsors signed.
A 2025 launch is now planned, Infantino said, promising talks with football stakeholders after the ruling council approved the principle Friday.
It could be hosted in the United States and serve as a test event for the 2026 World Cup, which is being hosted in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.