FIFA has announced that its Club World Cup will return to Japan next year, with 2021 set to have two editions of the tournament due to the effects of COVID-19 on the global football calendar.

The FIFA Council has decided that a Club World Cup, in the current format with seven teams, be organised for late 2021 and the hosting rights for this competition have been awarded to Japan. The Club World Cup has previously been staged in Japan from 2005 to 2008, 2011 to 2012, and 2015 to 2016.

There will now be two editions of the Club World Cup in 2021 after world football’s governing body last month elected to move this year’s tournament in Qatar, which was due to be held this month, to February 1-11. This was due to the disruption caused to the continental club competitions that act as a pathway to the Club World Cup.

The decision to award the 2021 Club World Cup to Japan also formally postpones FIFA’s ambitious plans to stage an expanded version of the tournament in China. Speaking at a press conference following the Council meeting, FIFA president Gianni Infantino said a 24-team Club World Cup is “still on the agenda, we just haven’t decided when it will take place”.

In March, FIFA initially agreed to delay the inaugural staging of a revamped Club World Cup in China to accommodate the new dates for the UEFA European Championship and Copa América national team tournaments, which were postponed from this summer due to the pandemic.

In October 2019, FIFA announced that China would become the first host of a 24-team Club World Cup in 2021, but the altered state of the football calendar leaves question marks over when it can now realistically fit in.

Following next year’s UEFA Euros and Copa América, Qatar will host the 2022 World Cup, while China is due to stage the Asian Cup in 2023 before further editions of the Euros and Copa América in 2024.

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