(ATR) Gianni Infantino began his press conference in Miami by telling the gathered reporters “today you have in front of you a happy FIFA President”.

Giani Infantino is all smiles in Miami (FIFA)
The Swiss leader of world soccer’s governing body says his smile comes from the FIFA Council reaching agreement to create a enlarged Club World Cup tournament for 2021.

The current seven-team Club World Cup, which is currently played every December, will now include 24 teams but will be played only once every four years, beginning in June-July 2021. It replaces the now defunct Confederations Cup, the World Cup warm-up event which previously was played in that time slot.

But while Infantino got his way in getting the new format for the Club World Cup, he still does not have assurances that any European clubs will be taking part.

In a letter seen by multiple media outlets, the European Club Association (ECA), which represents 232 clubs, says it is against any new competitions until there is an agreement on a new international match calendar from 2024. The worry for the ECA is fixture congestion. A FIFA document seen by the Associated Press reveals that 2022 World Cup qualifiers, the African Cup of Nations, the Concacaf Gold Cup and the Club World Cup could all potentially take place within a few weeks in the summer of 2021.

Infantino appeared optimistic that Europe could yet be a part of the new competition, saying “We hope that all the best teams will participate and we’ve had some very positive discussions with UEFA (Europe’s governing body for soccer).

Reporters arrive for Infantino press conference (ATR)”But it was our responsibility to take a decision because we have to deal with the organizational matters – it is only two years away.”

The FIFA Council also decided that it was “feasible” to expand the 2022 World Cup from 32 to 48 teams. A FIFA feasibility study says additional countries in the region would be needed to host the increased number of games. Infantino says a final decision on expanding the tournament would be made in June at the FIFA Congress. In the meantime, the council is to discuss potential host countries to share the duties with Qatar. Complicating that decision is a current diplomatic rift between Qatar and most of its neighbors. Kuwait and Oman could be the only options, since neither has cut off diplomatic ties with Qatar.

Infantino also confirmed that this summer’s Women’s World Cup would be using the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system that was used at the men’s showpiece event last summer in Russia.

With plenty on his plate at the moment, Infantino was noncommittal about the possibility of becoming an IOC member.

Responding to a question from Around the Rings, Infantino said “we will see what happens in the future for any potential membership of IOC but I’m happy as FIFA president. I’m happy I’m the only candidate for the re-election on the 5th of June so I can continue my work and continue developing football.”

Written by Gerard Farek

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