Will FIFA’s International Window Reshuffle Ever See More Streamlined Implementation?

Will FIFA’s International Window Reshuffle Ever See More Streamlined Implementation?

Jarryd Westerdale
March 25, 2024 at 10:43 AM
In this article:
FIFA World Cup logo
FIFA World Cup
  • FIFA announced a review into the international calendar back in 2021
  • The international window is an increasingly subdued and uninspiring affair
  • The introduction of the FIFA Club World Cup from 2025 has fuelled the debate

All football seasons have a narrative, but the story-telling can often be erratic.

International and club football are of equal importance, with some able to argue that playing for one's country is the pinnacle of the sport.

Certainly, the FIFA World Cup is the undoubted holy grail of football, but it is the rest of the international calendar that has long been a source of consternation.

FIFA President, Gianni Infantino, FIFA Series, International window, calendar review.
FIFA President, Gianni Infantino has overseen changes in the international calendar, including the launch of FIFA Series and Club World Cup. Photo: Michael Buholzer.
Source: Getty Images

FIFA undertook a review of the international calendar in 2021, and they announced in March 2023 a minor tweak that will run until 2030.

As the footballing world observes the first international break of the year, Sports Brief looks at a possible streamlining of the international windows.

FIFA International window restructuring

Meaningful games

Players have seldom expressed it publicly, so it is difficult to know where they stand on the issue. For fans, however, switching between club and international mode is a laborious task.

When outlining the objectives of their review, FIFA stated it was aimed at increasing the number of meaningful matches. UEFA paved the way with their Nations League, which has somewhat been replicated on a global stage with the FIFA Series.

The jury is still out over whether these have been a success. For example, 58th-ranked South Africa would have learned little for their 1-1 draw with 164th-ranked Andorra.

Like the Nations League, pairing similarly ranked teams in a promotion and relegation format could go a long way to making the FIFA Series a moderately entertaining product.

Flow of the season

The biggest gripe about the international window is the break in momentum for domestic teams. Important wins prior to the internationals can have their psychological impact diminished over a two-week period of inactivity.

Likewise, a loss in a big game can be resigned to the rubbish bin almost immediately. The unravelling of a league's narrative could play out far different if it continued uninterrupted for six to seven months.

Player welfare and workload

The announcement of the FIFA Club World Cup in late 2022, prompted the World Leagues Forum (WLF) to question FIFA's transparency over unilateral decisions. Part of the WLF statement read:

"The interests of the football community are not best-served by piling-up FIFA-owned matches which only involve the top 1% of players."

For an organisation that shunned the European Super League, launching the FIFA Club World Cup has more than a hint of self-serving hypocrisy.

National team cohesion

Tournaments are a brief glimpse into the bonds that can be formed in a short time frame. An extended period together can help national teams refine their tactics in real time, which improves the overall quality of competition.

In non-tournament windows, playing a string of games without the immediate threat of elimination can release inhibiting pressure, as well as allow fans a few matches to build their enthusiasm.

Bigger but fewer windows

FIFA announced in March 2023 that there will be four windows, instead of five, from 2026. The nine-day, two-match windows of September and October have merged into a 16 day, four-match window for the same period, as per FIFA.

Why stop there, as the November window could be added to the aforementioned merge and the March window could merge with the June window, leaving two bulk windows for international football.

In total, the combined international breaks cover 43 days. Further simplification would be to lump all internationals into an annual June or November window, where the world can focus its footballing attention on the spectacle of national pride.

FIFA Series explained

Sports Brief recently complied an article explainer the format and criteria for the FIFA Series.

The competition will be held every March during the international break in alternating years.

The teams with no fixture commitments for March 2024 were prioritised for the launch event.

Jarryd Westerdale photo
Jarryd Westerdale
Jarryd Westerdale (based in Johannesburg) joined Sports Brief after four years in the community journalism sphere. He is a two-time Alet Roux Award winner and was a finalist in multiple categories at the Forum of Community Journalism Excellence Awards.