AFCON 2025: CAF Confirms Shift Of Tournament To December

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has made a significant scheduling announcement, confirming that the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) is set to take place in Morocco from December 21, 2025, to January 18, 2026. The declaration comes from CAF president Patrice Motsepe, who has expressed high expectations for the tournament, stating, “I am confident that the CAF AFCON Morocco 2025 will be extremely successful and the best AFCON in the history of this competition.”

This date change, announced following a virtual CAF executive committee meeting at their Cairo headquarters, is a strategic pivot from the originally planned June and July schedule. The adjustment is designed to circumvent the inaugural FIFA Club World Cup, to be held in the United States from June 15 to July 13 next year, and to align with the European football calendar, effectively dodging conflicts with the UEFA Champions League that wraps up its matchday six on December 11, 2025, and resumes with matchday seven on January 21, 2026.

However, the revised timeline is poised to create disputes with several Premier League clubs; the rescheduling intrudes upon the traditionally bustling Christmas-New Year fixture period, prompting concerns over player availability. Clubs might resist releasing African players during this vital interval, citing commitments to only one international championship release per year, and with the World Cup following close behind in 2026.

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CAF might argue the validity of the player releases, considering the tournament is technically the 2025 edition, despite the majority of the matches occurring in the subsequent year. This controversy reflects the persistent challenge of scheduling the AFCON, a tournament crucial for CAF revenue, yet increasingly tricky to slot into the global football calendar.

Unlike comparable continental competitions, AFCON takes place biennially, driven by its status as CAF’s chief income source. President Motsepe has credited the recently concluded edition, hosted by Ivory Coast, with generating a remarkable $80 million profit, a stark climb from the average $4 million from prior tournaments.

Furthermore, regional climatic considerations necessitated previous tournaments in Cameroon and Ivory Coast to be held in January-February, outside their respective rainy seasons.

Looking ahead, the qualifying draw for AFCON 2025 is slated for July 4 in Johannesburg, with Morocco set to participate for match practice despite their assured spot as hosts.

As CAF navigates the complexities of tournament planning and seeks suitable arrangements for other competitions, such as the African Nations Championship (CHAN) and the African Football League (AFL), stakeholders like John Comitis, chairman of Cape Town City FC, remain apprehensive. The implementation of events like the AFL, he suggests, could have extensive implications for domestic leagues across the continent.

As Morocco braces to welcome teams and fans for AFCON 2025, the conversation around scheduling, player releases, and the broader impact on global football continues to unfold, with CAF at the helm of these pivotal decisions.

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