FIFA Wants Expanded Women's World Cup Field To Include 32 Teams
FIFA will "seek to expand the Women's World Cup from 24 to 32 teams and double the prize money," according to Rob Harris of the AP. With bidding already underway for the '23 tournament, the process "would have to be reopened if countries will have to find the stadiums to accommodate more teams and additional games." FIFA President Gianni Infantino said, "We will need to act more quickly if we want to have 32 teams already in 2023." The 37-member FIFA Council had been "due to vote" on the '23 Women's World Cup host in March '20, with nine countries "expressing interest in bidding" (AP, 7/5). In N.Y., Victor Mather noted with a further expansion, the WWC “could be opened to second-tier teams that narrowly missed out on qualification this year.” Expansion would mean “more opportunity for growth of women’s soccer in new markets, but it also carries competitive risks.” Infantino also said that he “wanted to double national team funding and payments to teams that release players for the Women’s World Cup, a change that would represent another sizable infusion of money into women’s soccer.” FIFA “pointed to its own data to support Infantino’s proposed changes, reporting Friday that it expected a total audience for the games at this year’s Women’s World Cup to exceed one billion, and that the average audience was double that” of the ‘15 World Cup (N.Y. TIMES, 7/6).
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?: In DC, Liz Clarke asked, “As this exceptionally well played World Cup comes to an end: Is this uptick in global interest sustainable, signaling the start of a new era in which women’s soccer -- not just in the United States, but throughout Asia, Africa and Europe -- will start attracting the paying fans, corporate investors and media coverage that are the lifeblood of professional sports? Or is it a spike amid the doldrums of a sweltering European summer?” (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 7/6).
NEED FOR EXPANSION: YAHOO SPORTS’ Dan Wetzel wrote the World Cup has “proven women’s soccer has truly gone global,” so now it is time for the IOC to “step up and honor that.” The Olympics “need to expand their miniscule 12-team field so they can provide additional opportunity and competition for some of the best athletes in the world, not to mention additional entertainment for the fans.” The men’s Olympic tournament has 16 teams. The small field is a "drag on the sport.” As a result of how qualifying works, global powers France and Germany "won’t be in Japan” for the ‘20 Games. That “strips the event of significant prestige, star power and high-end play.” The quality of play in women’s soccer “has never been better,” and there are “more teams across the globe playing to that standard” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 7/4).