A Radical Remake of the Club World Cup

A radical overhaul can give the Club World Cup the prestige it has long sought.

A Radical Remake of the Club World Cup
Proposals to fix the Club World Cup may help confederations gain significant rewards from Raja Casablanca's success (shown here). Image courtesy of Reuters

The FIFA Club World Cup should be about pitting the best clubs in the world against each other for simply that -- "best club in the world". It sounds like a title so grand that not even the Big House or Camp Nou would be big enough to contain the atmosphere. It should be treated as big as a Mayweather - Pacquiao fight, but it isn't. 

The tournament, as of right now, is a single round knockout tournament in which has produced few upsets (outside of the occasional upset of a South American side), and have been virtual walkovers for European sides (and South American sides) who do not take the tournament seriously. Teams like Auckland City, Guangzhou Evergrande, and TP Mazembe often do not possess the quality, professionalism, or ability to pose much threats to South American, European, and occasionally North American, teams. 

There is a way for the Club World Cup to matter to those teams, that will require a radical rethink of what the Club World Cup is now. But it can be done, and shown here in multiple parts,

1) Expand the tournament from seven teams (Hosts, CAF, CONCACAF, AFC, UEFA, OFFC, CONMEBOL) to 16 teams allocated (preliminarily) in the following manner.

1 team from Host nation

1 team from OFC (OFC Champion)

1 team from AFC (AFC Champion)

1 teams from CAF (Africa (CAF) champion)

3 teams from CONCACAF (Finalists from the CCL + "Third-place tie" winner (a third place two-legged tie wil be played 

4 teams from CONMEBOL (All four semifinalists from Copa Libertadores, including CONCACAF teams if they don't qualify via the CONCACAF route)

4 teams from UEFA (All four UCL semifinalists)

1 Defending Club World Cup Champion

2) Feature a single round-robin group stage.

As group stage games will be played in the host country, there should not be any incentive for anything more than a single round robin. Group stage could include 3 matches in 14-21 days, or could be spread out throughout the club season (August through May) as to fit into clubs' schedules. The only restriction on groups would be that two teams from the same country cannot be placed in the same group. The group setup will invariably put two teams from the same continental confederation together, and that will be allowed.

There should be four groups drawn from the following proposed pots:

POT A: Defending Champion, UCL Champion, Copa Lib Champion, UCL Runner-Up

POT B: Copa Lib Runner Up, Copa Lib SF 1, UCL SF 1, CONCACAF CL Champion

POT C: CONCACAF CL Runner Up, CONCACAF CL 3rd Place, Copa Lib SF 2, UCL SF 2

POT D: Host nation Champion, OFC CL Champ, AFC CL Champ, CAF CL Champ

3) Feature two-legged knockout rounds that involve traveling.

This is something that would add a little spice to the FIFA Club World Cup. Rather than be single-leg knockouts, we introduce two-legged knockouts with home and away legs. All group winners would be seeded teams and drawn up against a runner-up. Knockout ties (up to the final) will be two-legged ties. Away goals as the primary tiebreaker if the teams are tied on aggregate score after two legs. If the away goals are tied, two 15 minute halves of added extra time will be played. And if both tiebreakers still hold after added extra time (AET), the tie will be decided by a penalty shootout.

The final will be hosted in the designated "host country" at a large venue (> 30,000 in capacity).

4) Feature a points system by which club success can earn more spots for a confederation.

A points system shall be implemented in which clubs can earn the following points for their progress in the Club World Cup.

20 points - Club World Cup winner

10 points - Club World Cup finalist

5 points - Club World Cup semi-finalist

2 points - Club World Cup quarter-finalist

1 point - 3rd place in group stage of Club World Cup

0 points - 4th place in group stage

If UEFA sends four teams and gets a champion, finalist, 1 semi-finalist, and 1 quarter-finalist, it will early 20 + 10 + 5 + 2 points  (37 points) from the results of all four teams involved. Allocation of teams shall remain the same for the first four years. The average combined score over the last four years will determine the new allocation of spots to each confederation. And from each year after the fourth year of this format, allocation of spots for the next year's Club World Cup shall be based on the average combined score. Similar formulas are used to calculate the allocation of places in the UEFA Champions League (UCL) and UEFA Europa League (UEL). 

The allocation from this point on would be:

Confederation 1: FOUR places (2 A, 1 B, 1 C)

Confederation 2: FOUR places (1 A, 2 B, 1 C)

Confederation 3: THREE places (1 B, 2 C)

Confederations 4-6: ONE place each (1 D) 

Champion of Host Country (if not already qualified) (1 D)

Defending Champion (if not already qualified): ONE place (1 A)

If the defending Club World Cup champion earns its way to the Club World Cup through its confederation's Champions League (earning an allocated spot from its confederation), then one team from Confederation 2 will move up from Pot B to Pot A (if the defending champion does not qualify in a Pot B spot), one team from Confederation 3 will move from Pot C to Pot B (if the defending champion qualifies in a pot other than Pot C), and one team from Confederation 4 will move up from Pot D to Pot C (if the defending champion does not qualify into a Pot D place). 

5) Significantly increase the payouts for each result to the following. (Actual amounts will depend on the amount of TV revenue and sponsorship money available to be allocated as prize money.) All prize money values are listed in US Dollars.

Winner: $200M 

Finalist: $150M

Semi-finalist (SF): $100M

Quarter-finalist (QF): $75M

Group Stage: $50M

In summary, these changes may add real incentives for clubs to take the Club World Cup seriously, as the risk for taking it seriously should be smaller than the take-home rewards for clubs -- both being the "best club in the world" (or best confederation) and being able to improve the clubs' fortunes back home. It would also continue to allow confederations to showcase their improvements on a bigger scale, as places in the CWC become more malleable, or for "the best clubs" and "best confederations" to confirm that they are "the best in the world." 

International Football