What's missing in the Club World Cup

Hint: It's representation for half the population of Earth...

You can be forgiven for not realizing it, but the Club World Cup kicks off on Thursday morning (8:50am ET, on TSN 5 in Canada).

As I said on SoccerToday yesterday, the Club World Cup is one of those competitions that works better in theory than it does in practice. It’s always a bit awkward when they actually get around to playing the thing and that’s especially the case this year, during the pandemic.

Whenever the CWC rolls around I always am taken back to a spirited conversation that I had at a pre-game bar before a TFC Concacaf Champions League game somewhere around 2012.

On that day, I was a pint or so (ok, maybe it was closer to the “or so” than I want to admit) into the evening when the topic turned to how important it was for TFC to win the competition so that they could qualify for the Club World Cup to “play Barcelona!” (It’s always Barcelona that people hold up as the ultimate opponent in these conversations).

“Forget the league,” my verbal sparring partner said. “The CCL and getting to the Club World Cup is what people really care about.”

At this point in the conversation, I pushed back.

“The only people that care about the CCL are geeks like us,” I countered, “and literally no one cares about the Club World Cup.”

I may as well have suggested that puppies were overrated, despite the fact that my verbal sparring partner couldn’t recall who had actually won the previous Club World Cup, or even when it actually was.

We eventually moved on to different topics before heading off to BMO Field to watch that nights’ CCL action with 13,000 others in the then 22,000 seat stadium (that had sold out the previous weekend to watch the Colorado Rapids).    

My friend did not see that disparity as disproof of his theory that more people cared about the CCL than cared about the league. Actual evidence is not high on the list of needs for CCL truthers to argue that the continental competition is what really matters.

Regardless, this isn’t meant to be a bashing of the idea of a Club World Cup or the CCL. As stated, I’m one of those geeks that likes the CCL and one of the few that would take the time to write a column talking about the CWC in any capacity.

But, let’s make no mistake – Bayern Munich has not geared its season around winning the Club World Cup, despite it technically being the World Championship. That’s because we understand that the best team in the world is decided in late May each year, when the UEFA Champions League title is awarded. Even if Palmeiras were to upset Bayern next week, no one would seriously argue that the Brazilians were the better team. And, no one in Germany would remember beyond a day or so that Bayern Munich lost.

This isn’t a suggestion that we scrap the Club World Cup (although expanding it, like FIFA wants to, is likely a bit foolish). No, it’s still a valuable exercise to have a competition that is open to the entire world – just understand its place and enjoy it for what it is.

However, if a global club tournament that does matter and would generate lots of excitement is what FIFA wants then there is a solution staring them in their face.

Hold a Women’s Club World Cup. The women’s game is growing tremendously and the UEFA Champions League is becoming more and more important, but we aren’t yet at the point where the game in Europe is so far ahead of the rest of the world that a WCWC wouldn’t be competitive. In fact, the NWSL champion might very well win it.

Now is the perfect time to start a world event. It would drive the interest in the club game higher, pressure countries to get women’s leagues off the ground and generate sponsorship opportunities for the women’s game.

Rather than being something I’ll probably throw on in the background while I do work (as is the case with the men’s CWC), a WCWC would be must-watch TV by anyone with an interest in WoSo.

The time is long overdue for this. If FIFA is serious about growing the women’s game (which is a different column) then this is a very simple way to start.

Make it happen.     

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