July 30 – FIFA wants to fast-track an expansion of the next Women’s World Cup to 32 teams and has reportedly asked council members to approve adding eight more teams within days and without a formal meeting.
This year’s finals in France were played in a 24-team format with the United States triumphing in the final European champions the Netherlands after dominating the month-long tournament that generated unprecedented interest globally in the women’s game.
Even before a ball had been kicked, FIFA president Gianni Infantino intimated that he wanted to expand the tournament to 32 teams and double the prize money to $60 million. Infantino also presided over the expansion of the men’s World Cup, which from the 2026 iteration on will be played with 48 participants.
“FIFA has a responsibility to ensure that its women’s competitions not only showcase women’s football at the highest level, but also act as a catalyst to grow the game,” council members were told, according to the Associated Press.
Such a decision would redraw the ongoing bidding process for the 2023 tournament. Nine FIFA member associations – Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa and South Korea, who are contemplating a joint bid with North Korea – have expressed interest in staging the 2023 tournament and were told to submit formal bid documents by October 4. It is unclear whether expansion to 32 teams would alter their hosting ambitions or their financial capability to host.
Bids would now have to be submitted in December and the process would be opened again to other interested federations. Ultimately, FIFA would award the hosting rights in May, and not in March as presently scheduled. A decision about the expansion could be taken as early as this week. The next FIFA Council is scheduled to take place in Shanghai late in October.
How the eight extra qualifying slots would be allocated would also need to be worked out. At this summer’s finals Europe had eight qualifying slots, excluding the hosts; Asia five, Africa three, Concacaf three, South America two and Oceania one. A North America-v-South America playoff decided the final slot.
The expansion could also likely alter the commercial structure of the Women’s World Cup, with FIFA seeking separate sponsors for the tournament. To date, FIFA’s sponsors have marketing rights across the men’s and the women’s tournaments.
Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1566692297labto1566692297ofdlr1566692297owedi1566692297sni@o1566692297fni1566692297