The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has announced that the next Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) will be held in Morocco from December 21, 2025, to January 18, 2026. This announcement was made by CAF President Patrice Motsepe during a virtual executive committee meeting held at CAF’s headquarters in Cairo. Motsepe expressed confidence that AFCON Morocco 2025 would be a monumental success, potentially the best in the history of the tournament.

Originally slated for June and July 2025, the AFCON dates were shifted to avoid clashing with the inaugural Club World Cup, which will take place in the United States from June 15 to July 13 next year. Another critical factor for CAF officials was avoiding overlap with the UEFA Champions League schedule, as matchday six of the elite European competition concludes on December 11, 2025, and matchday seven commences on January 21, 2026.

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However, these new dates have raised concerns among Premier League clubs, as the tournament will now coincide with the busy Christmas-New Year period, a time when teams play numerous matches in a short span. English media reports indicate that some clubs might resist releasing their African players, arguing that they are only obliged to release players for one international championship per year, with the next World Cup scheduled for 2026. While CAF could contend that it is indeed the 2025 AFCON, it remains to be seen how this contention will be received, given that most of the tournament will extend into the following year.

Finding suitable dates for AFCON has become increasingly challenging. The 2019 edition, held in Egypt, was moved to mid-year to avoid clashing with the European club seasons, despite the intense heat of the Egyptian summer. However, the subsequent tournaments in Cameroon and Ivory Coast had to be staged in January and February to avoid the rainy seasons prevalent in central and west Africa.

The qualifying draw for AFCON 2025 is set to take place in Johannesburg on July 4, with 48 teams to be divided into 12 groups. Although Morocco, as the host nation, is guaranteed a spot in the finals, they will participate in the qualifiers for competitive match practice.

Unlike the four-yearly European Championship, Copa America, and Asian Cup, AFCON is held every two years, primarily because it generates the bulk of CAF’s revenue. In a recent television interview, Motsepe revealed that CAF made a profit of $80 million (€75 million) from the last AFCON, hosted by Ivory Coast earlier this year. This figure is a significant increase from previous tournaments, which typically yielded an average profit of around four million dollars.

In addition to AFCON, the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (WAFCON) has also been rescheduled and will now be held in Morocco from July 5 to 26 next year. Furthermore, new dates are required for the African Nations Championship (CHAN), initially planned to take place in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda this year. CAF has yet to conduct the qualifying draw for this competition, which is exclusively for home-based players and was last won by Senegal in Algeria.

CAF’s plans for a second edition of the African Football League (AFL) also remain uncertain. Originally envisioned as a 24-club mini-league and knockout competition featuring the top-ranked clubs on the continent, the AFL debuted last year with only eight teams in a three-round format. Implementing the original format could see clubs playing between 14 and 21 matches, posing significant logistical challenges given the limited direct flights between African countries. John Comitis, chairman of South African top-flight club Cape Town City, warned that the AFL could potentially overshadow domestic leagues, stating, “You can turn the lights off on domestic football if this goes ahead.”

These developments highlight the complex scheduling and logistical challenges CAF faces as it seeks to balance continental competitions with global football calendars, while also ensuring financial sustainability and growth for African football. As the dates for these tournaments approach, it will be critical for CAF to navigate these challenges effectively to ensure the successful execution of its premier events.