What If International Soccer Used A Boxing-Style Title System?

The Unofficial Football World Championships (UFWC) are a beautiful anomaly in the world’s game. While world and continental champions are officially determined by the corresponding, internationally sanctioned tournaments, what if the world champion was instead determined using a knock-out system like the one used in boxing? That’s exactly what the UFWC set out to do in 2003, spearheaded by freelance journalist and author Paul Brown.

The format is simple: the UFWC is contested whenever the current title holders play an international match (any FIFA accredited ‘A’ international, whether that’s at a major tournament or a friendly). If the holders win or draw, they retain the belt. If they’re defeated, the victors become the new title holders.

The UFWC began with the very first international match ever recorded, a 0-0 draw between Scotland and England in 1872. It wasn’t until a year later that the UFWC had its first true title holder, with England defeating Scotland 4-2.

From there, due to the relatively insulated nature of international football at the time and the outbreak of the world wars, the belt spent a lot of time passing between Scotland, England and the Irish.

One of the most shocking results in the history of the UFWC was also one of the most shocking results in the history of the World Cup. Heading into the 1950 World Cup, England were the holders of the unofficial title. However, they were defeated by the United States and the title was taken to the Americas, staying there for the following 16 years.

From 1966 until 1978 the title stayed in Europe, but it’s since achieved full globalization — the belt has been held by Nigeria, Angola, Zimbabwe, Japan, North Korea and Turkmenistan among others.


The UFWC has, most recently, spent a majority of its time in the Americas. Mexico took the title from holders Uruguay to open the Copa America Centenario, and Mexico retained it until their 7-0 capitulation to Chile. It was then taken by Paraguay and finally surrendered to Uruguay in a World Cup qualifier on September 6th, 2016. Uruguay have now successfully defended the belt over three matches, including Thursday’s 2-1 triumph over Ecuador.

While Uruguay travels to Chile on Tuesday, November 15th for a crucial World Cup qualifier, those in the know are aware of how much is truly at stake. These are the all-time rankings from September. Uruguay, with their victory over Ecuador, have since surpassed France and are one victory away from drawing level with Italy: 

That’s right, according to the UFWC rankings, Scotland are the most successful side in the history of international football.

If you think there are no interesting qualifiers or friendlies going on during an international break, you haven’t checked to see who’s contesting the UFWC title match.

For more coverage, records, stats and information, visit You can also follow the unofficial competition on Twitter: @UFWC_Football

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