During FOX’s Champions League pregame show today, Grant Wahl confirmed that the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar will be played in November and December of 2022. After many rumors, debate and speculation as to when the World Cup will be played, it appears November-December is certain and will be definite sometime next month.
The timing of this announcement can sort of explain how FOX obtained US broadcast rights to the 2026 FIFA World Cup without open competition from ESPN and NBC. It was widely predicted that FOX was given 2026 World Cup rights as a way of shutting them up and not complain that their 2022 World Cup deal would be devalued as a result of going to the winter.
The lack of open criticism by FOX officials about the proposed switch before and after the news, tells us a similar story. I would have thought with FOX having NFL and College Football rights at the same time as the 2022 World Cup as well as competing with sports like basketball and hockey for ratings in the United States that FOX would complain about moving to the winter because of likely lower ratings. Summer is perfect for the World Cup for US TV because the main sport they would have to compete with is baseball.
As far as other soccer entities being affected, the European leagues will have to adjust. Playing in a August to May schedule will likely have to be tweaked. Expect for two or three weeks to be added to the beginning and end of a regular season. It’ll be very interesting to see how the EPL handles this because they have many games, both League and Cup games, in December and Boxing Day is a huge day for English soccer.
One league that may see this as good news is MLS. MLS plays from March to December and while some want MLS to follow the FIFA calendar and adapt to the August to May schedule, that isn’t going to happen due to a variety of factors. With this, MLS won’t need to disrupt their league in 2022 with an extended break. They will need to probably move up their season by a month or two for it to end in October but at least there won’t be any month long breaks. The other option is, if they want to disregard the FIFA calendar completely and play during the World Cup, having the World Cup Final as a lead in to the MLS Cup Final would be interesting. It may also be horrible if players aren’t free to play in the MLS Cup Final but it would probably get outrageously high ratings.
So another piece of the Qatar World Cup puzzle falls into place. The already controversial tournament is still almost eight years away now and now we wait for everyone to adjust what they do to appease Qatar.