FIFA sets talks with soccer leaders on biennial World Cup
FIFA will finally start speaking to soccer clubs, leagues and players' unions this month in the latest steps announced Monday in its push to organize a men's World Cup every two years.
All 211 member federations have also been invited to online talks on Sept. 30 as part of consulting on the future of national team soccer, including a biennial men's World Cup.
FIFA first sought approval this month from retired players, including World Cup winners who went to Qatar for a two-day conference, and commissioned surveys of fans in selected countries.
That process was criticized as flawed by FIFPRO, the global union for active players, which is now set to get a meeting with FIFA.
A "new phase of consultation" will start with organizations representing players, clubs, leagues and the six continental governing bodies, FIFA said Monday in a statement.
European soccer body UEFA has warned it could boycott if the World Cup moves from its historic four-year cycle, and South American counterpart CONMEBOL is also opposed. Their members dominate World Cups on the field but combine for fewer than one-third of the 211 federations who vote.
FIFA argues biennial World Cups will give more players and teams the chance to compete in meaningful games, improve talent globally and raise more money to fuel development programs.
Opposition has focused on diluting the World Cup's appeal, distorting the balance between domestic and international soccer and overloading players in a crowded schedule. The prestige of UEFA's European Championship and CONMEBOL's Copa America also risk being hit by playing more World Cups.
The World Cup debate has overshadowed an ongoing review of the FIFA-managed International Match Calendars which mandate when clubs must release players to national teams.
The men's calendar expires in 2024 and there is broad agreement the current system is outdated. It requires players to travel for matches in separate windows at least four times during each domestic season.
FIFA has proposed streamlining the calendar with smaller tournament qualifying groups, potentially playing all matches in a single block in October.
The women's calendar expires in 2023, when their next World Cup will be hosted by Australia and New Zealand.
Women's soccer could be crowded out by clashes forced by having more men's World Cups, the German soccer federation said last week.
FIFA's proposed changes are being led by Arsene Wenger, the former Arsenal coach who is now global development director for world soccer. He has suggested decisions could be made by December.