The result, though not predetermined, should be fairly predictable. In the 12 years of the current format, the European entrant has won nine times (including the last four) and the South American entrant three. Teams from other regions have never won, and they have appeared in the final only three times.
Though all these teams are legitimate champions, the imbalance in quality means that the tournament is rarely taken too seriously, especially by the favored European teams. Chelsea was the last club from that continent to lose the Club World Club, in 2012, but few fans would consider that a stain on their Champions League title from that year.
In fact, the European teams often don’t even arrive until some of the other contestants have headed home. While the early rounds are going on, Real Madrid will be concentrating on more pressing matters: playing in the Champions League on Wednesday and in the Spanish League on Saturday. (In order to get the top teams to agree to play in the Club World Cup, organizers give the European and South American entrants byes into the semifinals.)
But while the event is greeted by yawns in Europe, it can be an exciting opportunity for the champions of the smaller continents. Auckland City’s website Tuesday included headlines like “Auckland Can Shake Up Club World Cup,” “We Can Achieve Something Special,” and “Road to U.A.E. Part 4.”
And the seven teams that made it have earned the right to some gloating. Thousands and thousands of clubs around the world failed to qualify. Major League Soccer, for example, has yet to get a team into this event via the Concacaf Champions League.
Still, despite the widespread indifference to it, the Club World Cup is a real FIFA tournament and will be televised around the world (in the United States, it will air primarily on Telemundo, plus Fox Soccer Match Pass online). And just to be safe, Real Madrid is likely to send out a strong team of household names, comparable to its lineup against Valencia or Villareal.
And regardless of your opinion of the event, it does have one inescapable draw: when else are you going to get a chance to watch Moroccan and Mexican teams face off early on a Saturday morning?