FIFA confirm Women's Club World Cup to kick off in 2026

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The first edition of the Women's Club World Cup has been proposed to start during January-February 2026, with the 16-team tournament to be held every four years, world football governing body FIFA said on Wednesday.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino in May 2021 revealed their plans to introduce the Women's Club World Cup as part of a plan to "revolutionise" the female game.

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FIFA, whose council met in advance of the 74th FIFA Congress in Bangkok, did not provide any further details.

The Women's Club World Cup would likely allow top European teams from the UEFA Women's Champions League to face clubs from the United States' National Women's Soccer League, as well as sides from countries where the women's game is less developed. Infantino has publicly touted the idea of a global women's competition for years.

There is not yet a competition structure, qualification pathways, or a 2026 host set for the competition. FIFA also announced on Wednesday that there will be a second global women's club competition played on an annual basis between the quadrennial Women's Club World Cup. The secondary competition would be focused on stimulating development for clubs in other parts of the globe.

FIFA has approved a new calendar for 2026-2029 with a focus on providing more opportunities for rest and recovery for players and coaches.

"The Women's International Match Calendar and the subsequent amendments to our regulations represent an important milestone in our pledge to take the women's game to the next level by enhancing competitiveness across the world," Infantino said.

Global stakeholders anxiously awaited FIFA's decision about overhauls to the match calendar. The power struggle between professional clubs and national teams hit a tipping point last year ahead of the World Cup, when clubs in North America and Europe each, at different points, threatened to not release players for World Cup preparations outside of FIFA windows. The parties eventually compromised, but the issue remained.

Not everyone is thrilled with the changes FIFA proposed on Wednesday. ESPN obtained a letter sent by the Women's League Forum to FIFA executives ahead of their council meeting on Tuesday urging them "not to make any hasty decisions" over matters that would have "impact on the viability of the leagues and clubs, and player workloads."

The letter states that FIFA's proposed match calendar "would substantially increase the number of dates, and especially weekends, that fall in blocked windows," causing issues for player workloads and limiting "leagues' opportunities for expansion that is part of their pathway to commercial sustainability."

According to the letter, members of the Women's League Forum requested to meet with FIFA on multiple occasions but are yet to obtain a meeting.

ESPN understands that the global players union FIFPRO requested extensive, mandatory rest periods between international windows and the resumption of club competitions. Instead, FIFA tweaked the structure of international windows in hopes that players have an extra rest day before travelling, but the onus remains on professional leagues to build their schedules around FIFA's windows. FIFPRO threatened legal action against FIFA last week over its proposals for the men's international match calendar.

The FIFA Council also formally appointed Mattias Grafstrom as the FIFA Secretary General, having been nominated on an interim basis in October last year.

"Football is my passion since I was born. I started playing it as a child and worked in football all my life at all different levels. There are therefore no words to express my feelings as I accept with pride and with a great sense of responsibility, the biggest challenge of my professional life," Grafstrom said.

Information from ESPN's Jeff Kassouf and Reuters contributed to this report.