It's no secret to any of you that know me here on FanNation, I love football and I'll watch almost any form of it. I love to watch high school, I'll watch college, I'll watch indoor, I'll watch woman's, I'll watch club, and I'll watch big international ties. And the FIFA Club World Cup (FCWC) is one of those things that I'll watch. This year is the first year that I've actually had a chance to watch the games, and I have to say that it is good, quality soccer. But that only appeals to a certain small base of people. But how do we fix this problem?
Daniel Harris of ESPNsoccernet.com has an interesting take on the subject. Here is one of his quotes “the structure of the tournament would have to be appropriate. Sixteen participants playing a straight knock-out would allow for strong teams and global representation, without being so long as to invite problems of player fatigue. It would also be less costly for supporters, both financially and in terms of time off work required to attend, and for the majority come at a more convenient time of the year than it does now. Factor in the chance to challenge for a title that means something, and clubs would be compelled to field their strongest teams and compete seriously.
Qualifiers would be the last four Champions League finalists, the last four winners of the Copa Libertadores and the winners of a series of play-offs between the champions of Africa and Asia (Oceania is too weak to participate now that Australia has joined Asia).”
With that, I have a bit of a laugh. As much as anyone would like to see it, I just don't see this happening or working either. Player fatigue would still be a problem because players are already overworked today as it is. A straight-knockout wouldn't be incentive to come to a designated place either. You can't have a tourney like that and expect the small teams to be happy with one match. If you're going to make it into a spectacle at least do something that will make it a little more fair to the small sides. And he also says that all clubs would want to compete in this. Heck, if you've watched the FCWC this year, then you can clearly see that they all want win the competition. Gamba Osaka threw everything they had at United. They may have come up short, but really they are a good side that could compete in the European topflight. And then he doesn't even mention CONCACAF, who has one of the quickest growing programs in the world (USA) and one of the biggest fanbases in the world (Mexico).
So how exactly can we fix it without going way over the top? Here is a list of several things that will/could help FIFA to make this thing a little better. These things are only suggestions and some would be too hard to do in today's modern world.
1. Leave the tourney in December. Most European leagues are breaking and some of the other world leagues are at a good spot for the tourney.
2. Move the tourney below the equator. Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa. These are countries that have good weather this time of year and would allow the teams to play better football.
3. Set up permanent domestic leagues in Oceania and Antarctica (just kidding on the second one there) that can supply half-decent, full-time teams. It's a stretch, but Waitakere isn't that bad and they are part-timers. If they could get full-timers in their, then they would make things a lot more enjoyable.
4. Make the format more friendly to fans. This is crucial for any sport. A lot of people don't know competition rules, so FIFA should make all those play-ins go away because they are confusing to people when all these play-ins are being played and advertised as being part of the actual tourney.
5. Make sure all clubs get recognized as actually being in the tourney and not having to play-in themselves.
6. Expand the tourney to eight-teams. One club will come from Oceania, UEFA, CONCACAF, ASEAN, CONMEBOL, and CAF. The other two clubs will come from FIFA rankings. The top ranked country's league winning team in Europe and the top ranked team from the rest of the world will get an extra team. For example, if Portugal is the top team in the world, then the previous Portuguese champion would be in the tourney. That team this year would be FC Porto.
7. Make the tourney a multiple-game affair for all. Divide the teams into two groups of four and then have the top two from each group qualify for the Semi-Finals.
I really do want to see an 8-team competition, and I don't want to see random teams placed into the tournament like Adelaide was. The host shouldn't automatically qualify for this competition because it will only water it down. In the World Cup it's fine with the number of teams, but in this type of tournament it can't really work. So if this year's tourney was to be an 8-team, group-stage like I proposed here's how it would look.
1. Manchester United- UEFA
2. Gamba Osaka- ASEAN
3. Al Alhy- CAF
4. Sao Paulo- Rest of World Wild Card
1. LDU Quito- CONMEBOL
2. Pachuca- CONCACAF
3. Waitakere United- OFC
4. Real Madrid- European Wild Card
Well, I hope you liked it. It's been Keeper and I'm out.