The 2022 World Cup is unique. For the first time in the competition’s history, it will take place during November and December, disrupting most of the major leagues around the world.
Nearly every team that is expected to compete to win one of those leagues has several players involved in the World Cup. As players depart for the World Cup, it is important to consider how leagues, and teams, could be affected by the break in their season.
Fatigue and Fitness
As a result of the World Cup, this season could include the most condensed schedule in the history of the sport. Players participating in the World Cup will likely play more matches this season than they have at any point in their careers.
The final of the 2022 World Cup is scheduled for Sunday, December 18. Only two days later, on December 20, the English Football League Cup will return to play with five games, two more games in the competition will take place the next day, with another game taking place on Thursday.
On Monday, December 26, the Premier League will begin games, and the rest of Europe’s major leagues will resume their seasons throughout the rest of that week or during the weekend.
Players who play for Premier League teams that are still in the EFL Cup may have to play in a competition just two days after the World Cup Final. If a player reaches the final, their league games could restart as little as eight days after they played in the most important match of their career.
It isn’t known how this will affect individual teams or leagues, but fatigue will likely play a larger role in the rest of this season than it has at any other point in recent memory.
Most teams will take a short break before and during the start of the World Cup, giving players not participating in the tournament an opportunity to rest. During the end of November and December teams will return to training, and several teams have already scheduled friendlies to prepare for the season to resume.
However, the World Cup will likely have a dramatic impact on team playstyles and cohesion as players who left to play in the World Cup return to their teams. Those players will likely have missed almost a month of training, other practices, and friendlies.
In addition, some teams may choose to allow players who participated in the World Cup to rest after playing in the tournament to ensure they avoid injuries throughout the rest of the season. That could result in players attempting to return to their starting lineups after the season has restarted.
While some coaches may have hoped, before the season, that the international break would be a chance to improve areas of their team that were not performing well after the first few months of games, it seems unlikely that will be possible. Most major teams in European leagues have important players participating in the World Cup, and it will be difficult to introduce new tactics or strategies with multiple players not practicing with their teams.
When the season resumes at the end of December, it could be similar to the start of the season. Most teams will have played their last competitive match more than a month before the season resumes, and several players will likely have only practiced a few times with their clubs after the World Cup ends and before the season restarts.