In November 2020, Gianni Infantino announced that FIFA would step in and organize an Arab Cup involving all the Arab national teams.
It was a landmark decision given that the UAFA (Union of Arab Football Associations) had never been able to hold the tournament with any regularity.
The original tournament had always jockeyed for attention with the football tournament held at the Pan Arab Games- which had an 11 year head start and was contested quadrennially between 1953 and 1965.
Unfortunately for fans of Arab football both tournaments have fallen by the wayside- both the Arab Cup and the Pan Arab Games have only been contested twice in the past 20 years.
Since the initial announcement five months ago, information on the tournament was extremely hard to come by. There have also been some last minute changes since to the tournament as well.
South Sudan will join the field as the 23rd participant and when the invitation was initially extended it referred to South Sudan being the 24th team in the field.
Fast forward two months, and the mysterious Team 23 (rumored to be Chad who were recently suspended by FIFA) has fallen by the wayside which leaves more questions than answers when it comes to a potential format.
Originally set to be held over 18 Days (December 1st to December 18th) it was widely speculated that FIFA would use the format it had touted for its new Club World Cup tournament. A 24 team tournament would have worked perfectly allowing all participants a minimum of two games and a maximum of five by splitting the teams in to eight groups of three with the winner advancing to the final.
The three team group format is also under consideration for the 2026 World Cup which will feature an expanded field of 48 teams.
The absence of a 24th team means FIFA had to expand the tournament dates and it surreptitiously announced in an article this morning that the FIFA Arab Cup would kick off on November 21st instead of December 1st.
On the heels of this news, there were also other tournaments announced by UAFA this week. A U20 tournament is set to be played in Egypt between June 17th and July 3rd of this year. A Futsal tournament will be contested between May 20th and May 30th. Morocco will host the U17 tournament from July 1st to 17th, while a first ever women’s tournaments will be hosted from August 24th to September 6th in Egypt.
There was also a promise of another edition of the Arab Club Championship but no dates had been set.
As for the Arab Cup, no additional details have been revealed in regards to the format of the tournament which will be revealed to the public tomorrow, April 27th at 9:00 PM Doha Time. It is widely thought that the Top 9 Arab Countries (Qatar, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and UAE) would enter the group stage directly with the remaining 14 teams playing a playoff to round join them.