By Paul Nicholson
December 11 – Concacaf, whose member associations have so often trailblazed in the women’s game, has restructured its senior women’s national teams calendar “with the aim of transforming women’s national team football across the entire confederation”.
Broken into two parts, the calendar will for 2021/22 be built around FIFA World Cup qualification and for 2023/24 see the introduction of a Women’s National League – the first of any of the global confederations to do so. The final round of this competition will see participation from four guest nations outside of Concacaf.
The new format is designed to get more national team matches played throughout the confederation as well as, with the invitation of guest nations, creating more elite competition in final round of the ‘National League’. Official competition names are still to be decided.
Both competitions will finish with major centralised tournaments in 2022 and 2024. Concacaf said the new calendar “will more than double the number of official senior women’s national team matches compared with the current cycle of competitions”.
“This is a milestone moment for our Concacaf W strategy, and I am hugely excited by the prospect of launching these new Concacaf women’s national team competitions. I strongly believe they will provide a development pathway for all of our Member Associations, while at the same time creating strong and competitive finals events to showcase the very best of women’s national team football in our region,” said Concacaf president and FIFA vice president, Victor Montagliani.
Women’s World Cup 2023 qualification will be the first focus of the calendar with a group stage scheduled for the November 2021 and April 2022 international windows. Groups will involve nations ranked from three and below in the FIFA rankings.
Six pools of five with each team playing two home and two away matches with qualify six group winners for the centralised finals where they join Concacaf’s two highest ranked nations (current World Champions USA, and 2016 Olympic bronze medallists Canada). If more than 30 Concacaf nations join the competition a play-in will be organised ahead of the group stages.
The eight-nation finals will be split into two groups of four with the two group winners qualifying for the knockout rounds, and ultimately the 2023 Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
Women’s National League
The inaugural Women’s ‘National League’ format is ground breaking for the women’s national team game and potentially sets a benchmark for other confederations. It will start in the international windows of September, October, November 2023.
National teams will be split into three leagues, based on rankings, playing home and away. The three top tier group winners will qualify directly to the Finals event in June 2024.
The second league group winners and runners-up from the top league will have an opportunity to compete in a Play-In (April 2024) to qualify for the Finals. The two women’s national teams competing at the Summer 2024 Olympic will receive a bye directly to the Finals.
The 12 teams qualifying for the centralised finals event will be split into three groups of four. Six national teams will qualify for a further round where they will be joined by four guest national teams from other Confederations;
After single round-robin play, the three group winners, the three group runners-up and the two best third-place finishers will qualify for the knock-out stage which will consist of quarterfinals, semi-finals and a final.
“These new competitions will be transformative for the confederation by providing a consistent structure of matches for all Member Associations. They will accelerate the growth of the women’s game in Concacaf and I can’t wait for them to get started next year,” said Concacaf Head of Women’s Football, Karina LeBlanc.
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