Get ready to watch the World Cup in 2022 while eating your turkey on Thanksgiving, as FIFA have officially announced yesterday that the tournament in Qatar will begin November 21st and end with the final being on December 18th. For the first time in almost 100 years of World Cup history, the big event will be moved from its traditional June-July format to accommodate to the scorching heat in the Middle East that would otherwise surely take a toll on players and attendees alike.
— FIFAWorldCup (@FIFAWorldCup) March 19, 2015
The announcement was made official yesterday, which created plenty of buzz on Twitter. Of course, most of it was criticism, as the decision to give the World Cup hosting rights to Qatar was already controversial enough without this extra element of disruption.
So what are we supposed to do in June-July 2022?
— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) March 19, 2015
— Nicholas McGeehan (@NcGeehan) March 19, 2015
Qatar 2022 World Cup final will be played on December 18th. Blatter will still be president of FIFA and present the trophy dressed as Santa.
— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) March 19, 2015
That’s not all, as the tournament will last a total of 28 days instead of the usual 32, shortened to reduce the time players are away from their clubs at this crucial time of the season. Unlike the June-July period, which coincides with most of the top leagues’ summer breaks, this new time frame is set to interrupt the European season, something that has angered top clubs, which will be providing most of the stars playing in the tournament. The December 18 end to the tournament coincides with Qatar’s national day, but is also a compromise with the English Premier League, allowing enough time for it to resume eight days later on its traditional Boxing Day holiday.
“From a commercial standpoint, I would say there is probably upside on this with the exception of the challenges faced for the U.S. broadcasters or one or two other broadcasters” said George Pyne, ex-president of IMG Sports and Entertainment, to the New York Times.
While Major League Soccer will likely have to restructure their leagues and move the date of MLS Cup final, the biggest problem for American fans is the overlap with other sports, something not a common issue in most other countries where soccer is by far the most popular sport of choice. Once every four years, the World Cup becomes the big event of the summer here in the US, with almost no competition in terms of sporting events. However, a November-December period coincides with some of the most crucial games in America’s biggest sport right now: American Football. With NFL teams battling for the playoffs and College Football Season also on a crucial stretch. Even more so, NHL and NBA are also in season in this period unlike with the traditional summer schedule. Could the World Cup dip in viewership in perhaps the most important emerging marketing for FIFA?
“For soccer to thrive in America, it can’t go up against American football. Sure most games won’t be on Saturdays or Sundays, but some will be. The 2014 World Cup final took place on a the second Sunday of July. If the 2022 World Cup adhered to a similar schedule, the final would be played against Week 15 of the NFL. That’s going to be an issue. Last summer was perfect. There wasn’t really anything for the World Cup to compete with (except baseball) and it did exceptionally well.” said USA Today Sports reporter Laken Litman in her opinion piece on this matter.
While the change is calms the concerns regarding players’ health, it could prove to be a challenge for audiences and advertisers here in the United States. Sure, World Cup during Thanksgiving sounds much better than the traditional NFL on Thanksgiving Day for us soccer lovers, but some people might be forced to choose one or the other for a couple weekends in 2022. We certainly hope that by then the growing interest in Soccer is strong enough to avoid making Qatar 2022 the least successful World Cup from an American stand-point.