ZURICH: FIFA are launching a new series of friendly matches in one location during the international window called the FIFA Series, with a pilot project kicking off in four countries next month, world football’s governing body said on Monday.

Although there are no trophies or prize money, the series is designed to benefit national teams that do not have the opportunity to play teams from other confederations, with FIFA set to cover travel costs.

A soft launch of the FIFA Series will take place from March 18-26 at four locations — Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Azerbaijan and Sri Lanka. Four teams will be based in one location and will play two matches each.

“Some countries have never played teams outside their confederations,” Elk­han Mammadov, FIFA’s Reg­ional Member Associ­ations Director for Europe, said. “They can gain competitive experience playing teams outside their own confederation, pla­ying tea­ms with a completely different style of play.

“Currently we have 20 teams for the pilot edition. For the 2026 edition we hope to have many more.”

Saudi Arabia will host two groups although the hosts themselves will not be involved in the matches, which are designed to benefit teams that have never qualified for the World Cup.

“The next World Cup [in 2026] will have 48 teams which means you may have many member associations who never played in a World Cup,” said Kenny Jean-Marie, FIFA’s Chief Mem­ber Associations Officer.

“They may arrive in the US, Mexico or Canada with no international experience outside their continent.”

Mammadov said they are currently working on fixing television broadcast deals for the Series while they will also look to stream matches on the FIFA+ platform.

He added there were no disagreements with confederations regarding scheduling these tournaments as they were being played during the international break.

“We’ve started discussions with high-ranked teams and they hope to play and even host the next edition in March 2026. There is interest to host,” he said.

With FIFA only facilitating and not organising the tournaments, Mammadov said they were inviting member associations with their own sponsors to sponsor the Series.

Published in Dawn, February 28th, 2024

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