The Thomas Cup, sometimes called the World Men's Team Championships, is an international badminton competition among teams representing member nations of the Badminton World Federation (BWF), the sport's global governing body. The championships have been conducted every two years since the 1982 tournament, amended from being conducted every three years since the first tournament held in 1948-1949.
The final phase of the tournament involves twelve teams competing at venues within a host nation and is played concurrently with the final phase of the world women's team championships, the Uber Cup ( first held in 1956-1957). Since 1984 the two competitions have been held jointly at the various stages of play.
Of the twenty-six Thomas Cup tournaments held since 1948-1949, only three nations have won the title. Indonesia is the most successful team, having won the tournament thirteen times. The current cup holder, China, which did not begin to compete until the 1982 series, follows Indonesia with eight titles, while Malaysia has won five titles. Thomas Cup and, to a lesser extent, Uber Cup are the world's "biggest" and most prestigious regularly held badminton events in terms of player and fan interest, trumping major tournaments for individual competitors such as the venerable All-England Championships, the BWF World Championships, and even the badminton competitions at the Olympic Games.
The final phase of the most recent edition of Thomas Cup in 2010 was contested in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The 2012 tournament will be held in Wuhan, China from May 20–27, 2012.
Successful national teams
Only three nations, Malaysia (formerly Malaya), Indonesia, and China have ever held the Thomas Cup. Curiously each of them won the first Thomas Cup competition that it entered: Malaya, the initial contest in 1949; Indonesia, the 1958 contest against Malaya; and China, the 1982 contest over Indonesia. Indonesia leads in total titles with thirteen. It won four consecutive titles from 1970 through 1979 and five consecutive titles from 1994 through 2002. Indonesia's ten year reign as champions was ended by the resurgence of China in 2004 when the Chinese won the title in Jakarta. Indonesia has played in the decisive final tie on eighteen occasions. Since the Thomas Cup format was overhauled in 1984, it has never failed to place among the top four teams.
China has captured the Cup on eight occasions including the last four in 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010. It has contested the final tie ten times and, like Indonesia, has never failed to place among the top four teams. Malaysia has won five times, the last being in 1992. It has played in the final tie on thirteen occasions. Since the format change in 1984 it has reached the "final four" nine of thirteen times.
Despite its small population, Denmark has traditionally been Europe's strongest power in men's badminton and the strongest badminton nation not to have captured the Thomas Cup. The only European nation to have played in the final tie, it has finished second eight times spanning from the first competition in 1949 to the 2006 tournament. The USA, a power in the early days of international badminton (especially in women's competition), finished second to Malaya in 1952 but thereafter steadily fell behind the leading badminton nations. Thailand, with a king who promoted the sport, produced outstanding players at the time of its run to the final in 1961, and for some years after that, but has since descended to a lower rung on the international ladder.
Among all the other contending nations, South Korea has the best record. Rising to prominence in the 1980's, and especially strong in doubles, it had reached the "final four" six times before finally reaching the "final two" in 2008 to become the runner-up. Japan produced highly competitive teams in the late 1960's and the 1970's as its women were winning Uber Cup championships. Both its men and its women have fallen back since. India nearly reached the final twice in the 1950's. Despite some fine individual players it has lacked the depth, particularly in doubles, to seriously contend for the Cup. In Europe, England and Sweden have usually joined Denmark in advancing to the final phase of Thomas Cup competition since 1984. England, traditionally more successful in women's play than in men's, had its best showing in 1984 with a third place finish. Sweden, whose greatest badminton success spanned from the late 1960's to the mid 1980's, has yet to advance to the semifinal round of Thomas Cup's final phase.