FIFA President Gianni Infantino walks on the stage before the...

FIFA President Gianni Infantino walks on the stage before the start of the 69th FIFA congress in Paris, Wednesday, June 5, 2019. FIFA was facing more opposition to its newly-expanded Club World Cup in America on Thursday, June 13, 2024 after World players’ union FIFPRO said a legal claim had been submitted against the decision to create the tournament. Credit: AP/Alessandra Tarantino

DUSSELDORF, Germany — Soccer players’ unions legally challenged FIFA on Thursday for expanding the Club World Cup.

The 32-team event, up from seven, is slated for June-July 2025 in the United States despite world players' union FIFPRO raising concerns about the increasing physical and mental demands on players.

FIFPRO's European arm said member unions in England and France filed a claim against FIFA at the Brussels Court of Commerce, and challenged FIFA’s “decisions to unilaterally set the international match calendar.”

The English Professional Footballers' Association said the case would “challenge the structure of football’s broken calendar and enforce the rights of players to take protected breaks.”

The Brussels court is being asked to refer the case to the European Court of Justice.

“Players and their unions have consistently highlighted the current football calendar as overloaded and unworkable,” FIFPRO Europe said in a statement.

FIFA revealed details of its expanded Club World Cup in December. FIFPRO quickly opposed the plans, which it said showed a "lack of consideration for the mental and physical health of participating players, as well as a disregard for their personal and family lives.”

FIFPRO said unions believe decisions like the expanded Club World Cup “violate the rights of players and their unions.”

FIFA said the timing of the month-long tournament, during the offseason for many major leagues around the world, would ensure sufficient rest for players.

That assertion is disputed.

“Once preparation periods and travel are included, the tournament is likely to create up to six weeks of additional work to be added to an already crowded schedule,” FIFPRO Europe said. “The role of FIFPRO Europe and its members is not to favor or oppose one competition over another. However, in the wider context of the global football calendar, the new FIFA Club World Cup is seen by players and unions as representing a tipping point.”

FIFA says the international match calendar is published after consultation with the relevant stakeholders.

Staging the Club World Cup in 2025 means top players face three straight years of major competitions during the usual offseason, given the European Championship and Copa America are being staged this year and the next World Cup is in 2026.

“Since all attempts at dialogue have failed, it is now up to us to ensure that the fundamental rights of players are fully respected by taking the matter to the European courts and thus to the ECJ," FIFPRO Europe president David Terrier said. "It’s not a question of stigmatising a particular competition, but of denouncing both the underlying problem and the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Despite the opposition of FIFPRO, the European Clubs Association has said the Club World Cup was “fantastic news for club football in general.”

The Associated Press contact FIFA for comment.

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James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson

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