Soccer’s world governing body FIFA will allow a host team to play at this year’s Club World Cup in Japan, Japan Football Association chief Saburo Kawabuchi said on Tuesday.
FIFA is expected to give the go-ahead for this season’s J. League champions to play in the Dec. 10-17 tournament, bringing the number of participating teams to seven.
Formerly known as the Club World Championship, the tournament is normally contested between the club champions from the world’s six confederations.
At the revamped championship last December, FIFA head Sepp Blatter made an about-turn and said adjustments to the only FIFA tournament that has no host representation would be considered after the absence of a Japanese team badly affected ticket sales.
He had earlier said, “A Japanese team has a very good chance of competing — but only when they are Asian champions.”
Jubilo Iwata and Yokohama F Marinos both failed to qualify for the lucrative tournament after they were knocked out in the group stages of the Asian Champions League.
The opening game at Tokyo’s 55,000-capacity National Stadium was barely half-full while there were just under 44,000 at the 72,000-seat Nissan Stadium for the second semifinal between European champions Liverpool and CONCACAF Cup winners Deportiva Saprissa.
Oceania champions Sydney FC drew over 28,000 for their opening game but that was thanks largely to former Japan striker Kazuyoshi Miura, who had joined Sydney on a short-term loan deal.
FIFA staged the first world club championship in Brazil in 2000 but pulled the plug on the competition in 2001 after the collapse of marketing partner ISMM/ISL.
The Club World Championship replaced the Toyota Cup, which had been played in Japan between the champions of South America and Europe until 2004.
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