Next Africa Cup of Nations finals to start in December 2025

Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast president Alassane Ouattara celebrates with the trophy alongside the players after winning the Africa Cup of Nations final against Nigeria at the Stade Olympique Alassane Ouattara, Abidjan, Ivory Coast on February 11, 2024.

Photo credit: File | Reuters

What you need to know:

  • Next African Cup of Nations finals set back six months.
  • Morocco to host tournament in winter rather than summer.

The next Africa Cup of Nations finals have been put back six months and will now be played from December 21, 2025 to January 18, 2026, the Confederation of African (CAF) football announced on Friday.

The 2025 tournament in Morocco was supposed to take place in mid-year but has been shifted because of FIFA’s new expanded Club World Cup with 32 teams in the United States next June and July.

CAF has also postponed the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations by 12 months to July 5-26 next year. That is also being hosted in Morocco.

Dates for the two tournaments have been keenly anticipated as CAF previously acknowledged struggling with a crowded international calendar.

“The announcement of the dates of the Afcon in Morocco 2025 took much longer than expected, as there were complex and at times challenging discussions with various interested parties, in the light of the extensive international and domestic match calendars,” said CAF president Patrice Motsepe.

“CAF is committed to protecting and advancing the interests of African players, (who are) playing in football clubs in Europe and worldwide. CAF is also committed to building mutually beneficial relationships with the other football confederations and FIFA,” he added.

Competing at the Cup of Nations in the middle of the European league season causes a dilemma for European-based African players, who have to decide between club or country.

To alleviate this, CAF previously decided the finals would be moved to mid-year, every odd year, from 2019 onwards.

But since the mid-year tournament in Egypt in 2019, African football’s governing body have gone back on their decision and hosted the last two finals in Cameroon and the Ivory Coast at the start of the year.

Moving the 2025 finals to a December kick off, rather than January, is to avoid a clash with the expanded Champions League in Europe.

The 2025 finals were to be a showcase for Morocco to bolster its summer tourism profile and also look to prove their capability ahead of co-hosting the 2030 World Cup with Portugal and Spain, but it is now scheduled for the winter months.

The 2025 Cup of Nations qualifiers will be played in the next three international windows in September, October and November this year in quick-fire campaign after which the 24 finalists will wait more than one year before the finals kick off.