The International Match Calendar makes the release of national team players compulsory for clubs on the dates it highlights. The 2014-18 Calendar is based on a concrete proposal put forward by ECA, and the efforts of a dedicated working group comprising representatives from ECA, EPFL, FIFPro and UEFA. The new calendar offers a more balanced system of double-headers with no single friendly matches that is beneficial for both clubs and national associations. For the duration of the agreement, any change to the international match calendar will require the consent of ECA.
Period & Structure
The new calendar came into force after the FIFA World Cup 2014 in Brazil and lasts until the 31st of May 2018 for four consecutive seasons: 2014/15, 2015/16, 2016/17, and 2017/18. The calendar is built on 2-year cycles leading up to the UEFA EURO and the FIFA World Cup (2014-16, 2016-18), comprising 9 double-headers for each. Double-headers are defined as periods of 9 days, starting on a Monday morning and ending on a Tuesday night the following week, reserved to national teams' activities. Each double-header includes a preparation period and a maximum of two matches played by each national team, irrespective of whether these matches are qualifiers or friendlies. Importantly, the calendar no longer includes single, stand-alone friendly matches.
The double-headers are spread over each season as follows:
- Year 1 (2014/15): September/October/November/March/June
- Year 2 (2015/16): September/October/November/March
- Year 3 (2016/17): September/October/November/March/June
- Year 4 (2017/18): September/October/November/March
A maximum of two National Team matches can be played per team per release period (double-header). These matches can be staged on any day from the Wednesday within the release period, provided that a minimum of two full days are left between matches of the same team to allow for sufficient regeneration of the players (i.e. matchdays on Thursday & Sunday). The players travel to their national teams by Monday morning at the latest, and travel back to their clubs the following Wednesday morning at the latest.
In principle, the two matches during the same release period should be played on the territory of the same confederation. If one of the two matches is a friendly match they can be played in two different confederations, providing a certain distance between the two venues is respected (i.e. not more than five flight hours and two time zones).
The exact dates of the final tournaments of FIFA and the confederations are to be added to the International Match Calendar on a case-by-case basis. These tournaments are generally to be played between early June and mid-July (in some cases the African and Asian Confederations may stage final tournaments in January/February). The release of players for the final tournaments is compulsory from the Monday of the preceding week prior to the week in which the final tournament starts (i.e. if the start is foreseen on a Friday the release period starts on the Monday of the preceding week, twelve days beforehand). The players are released back to their clubs after the last match of their respective national team in the final tournament.
In general terms, each player has a maximum of one A-National Team final tournament per year (exceptions to be considered for the FIFA Confederations Cup).
International Match Calendar 2019-2022 & Qatar World Cup
The international match calendar for the period 2019-2022 will be based on the same principles as for 2014-2018. It will be structured in two-year cycles, each composed of 9 double-dates (with the exception of one additional double-date in 2020 for all confederations except UEFA).
In order to accommodate the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar, the first one to be played in Winter, ECA joined a dedicated FIFA Task Force to agree on the calendar principles for this specific event. The World Cup in Qatar shall be played in 28 days, starting on Monday 21st November and lasting until Sunday 18th December 2022 (Qatar’s National Day). The proposed release date is set for Monday 14th November with a commitment to release the players one day earlier (13th November) in case the club played its league game on Saturday.
Due to these changes in the period for the FIFA World Cup, it is suggested moving the October double-date to June, which results in two consecutive double-dates at the end of the season (30th May – 14th June). This solution allows players to have enough holidays/rest before the start of the new season; clubs to have a sufficient pre-season preparation; leagues to fit in the fixtures without having to start the domestic league too far in advance; and associations to maintain the two double-dates. Finally, it is suggested to push back by two weeks the September 2022 double-date to allow for a more balanced calendar.
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