Qatar will host the next two editions of the Club World Cup in a major test of the Gulf country’s preparedness to stage the World Cup in 2022.
The seven-team club tournament, which will include European champion Liverpool this year, will be played in December, 2019, and in December, 2020, FIFA decided Monday at a council meeting.
“It is a great test event,” Qatar World Cup organizing committee chairman Hassan Al-Thawadi said. “So, we will definitely try to utilize as much as possible, all the different facets of hosting a World Cup.”
That includes coping with an influx of potentially thousands of fans who will want to drink alcohol, which is currently only available for foreigners in a limited number of bars in Qatar.
“Alcohol will be available in certain areas,” Al-Thawadi said after the FIFA Council meeting in Paris. “The details of it operationally, how it’s going to work out, all that stuff will be put in place and we will be announcing it in due course.
“We will have fan zones available, so it will be a great opportunity for us to put in place some of the plans we have for the World Cup already to get lessons learned from it.”
The first of the eight World Cup stadiums opened last month with FIFA president Gianni Infantino attending a domestic cup final at the 40,000-seat Al Janoub venue.
The event for clubs will be played at the same time of year as the 2022 World Cup.
FIFA moved the World Cup from the usual June-July slot for 2022 because of the Gulf country’s summer heat. It will instead start on Nov. 21, with the final on Dec. 18, Qatar National Day. Qatar experiences highs of about 25 C in December.
The decision to give Qatar the Club World Cup comes two weeks after FIFA settled on 32 countries for the 2022 World Cup, rather than expanding to 48 teams.
The Club World Cup is also enlarging but not until 2021, when it becomes a 24-team competition held every four years.
The 2019 and 2020 Club World Cups will be the final versions with only the six continental club champions and the winner of the host’s domestic league. In Qatar, that will be Al-Sadd, which is coached by former Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez.
Tunisian club Esperance de Tunis qualified last week as African champion, New Caledonian club Hienghene Sport will represent Oceania, and CONCACAF’s place was secured by Mexican club Monterrey. The Asian and South American teams will be determined in their continental finals in November.
The South American and European champions enter in the semi-finals at the Club World Cup.
Liverpool, which beat Tottenham 2-0 in the Champions League final on Saturday, lost its only Club World Cup final in 2005 to Sao Paulo in Yokohama, Japan.
The Club World Cup has been held in the Middle East before, but only in the United Arab Emirates. The UAE has hosted four editions, including when Real Madrid won the title in December.