The Women’s World Cup has had eight previous editions, but this year’s competition in Australia and New Zealand promises to be considerably different.
Since its inception in 1991, the competition has expanded in tandem with the development of the women’s game, which has seen a recent spike in popularity.
CNN looks at what makes this year’s tournament different, from better salary to eight new teams.
The Women’s World Cup will be held for the first time this year by two federations, New Zealand and Australia.
The games will be played in ten venues in nine separate cities, with teams having to travel between them.
Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, and Perth in Australia will host 35 games, while Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, and Dunedin in New Zealand will host 29.
On July 20, Auckland’s Eden Park will host the opening game between New Zealand and Norway, while Sydney’s Stadium Australia will host the final on August 20.
Both countries have a long sports history, but neither has ever won the tournament, which has been dominated by the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT), the two-time defending champion and winner of four of the previous eight editions.
It will also be the first tournament staged in the southern hemisphere, which may provide an edge to the two host countries.
However, don’t expect the scorching heat that Australia is known for. It is winter in that region of the world, and the weather is forecast to be cool but comfortable, ranging from the mid 50s to the mid 70s Fahrenheit (low teens to the mid 20s Celsius), with rain expected, particularly in New Zealand.
- The largest event ever held
For the first time, 32 teams will fight for this year’s prize, making it the most countries to ever play in the competition.
China’s initial tournament, held in 1991, had just 12 teams, but it was quickly expanded to 16 teams in 1999.
In 2015, organisers expanded the competition one again, with 24 teams competing for football’s richest prize. However, for the first time, this year’s event will follow the format of the men’s World Cup.
The 32 countries were divided into eight groups of four, with the top two from each group progressing to the knockout stages.
With the additional games, more spectators will be able to watch the games, and FIFA has stated that the tournament is on course to be the most attended standalone women’s sporting event in history.
FIFA stated that nearly 1.4 million tickets for this year’s events had been sold, already exceeding the 1,353,506 fans who attended the 2015 World Cup in Canada.
“The future is women – and thanks to the fans for supporting what will be the greatest FIFA Women’s World Cup ever,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino told reporters last month.
“The excitement is building in the host countries and around the world, and I hope to see you there to see the stars of women’s football shine on the world stage.”
On the first day, attendance records are also likely to be broken.
Both hosts, New Zealand and Australia, are expected to break their own national attendance records for women’s football games when they face Norway and the Republic of Ireland, respectively.
- There are eight newcomers.
Because there are so many teams, there is also room for eight nations that have never competed in a World Cup finals before.
Haiti, the Republic of Ireland, Morocco, Panama, the Philippines, Portugal, Vietnam, and Zambia will all make their debuts later this month, giving the competition new vitality.
No. 77 in the world Zambia is the tournament’s lowest-ranked squad, and reaching the finals has been rewarded with group games against Spain, Japan, and Costa Rica.
Meanwhile, the Moroccan women’s squad has continued the country’s tremendous rise in football.
Last year, the Atlas Lionesses reached the final of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations, which was hosted in the country, but were defeated by South Africa.
It comes after the men’s team became the first African nation to reach the semifinals of the Qatar 2022 World Cup.
Haiti, ranked 53rd in the world, is another newcomer seeking to defy expectations in Australia and New Zealand.
The country may not be known for its football skill, but the women’s team features one of the world’s most exciting young talents.
Melchie Dumornay, 19, recently joined Olympique Lyonnais, one of Europe’s top women’s teams, and is poised to make an impression on the world arena.
“Having Melchie is essential. “She’s the X factor for us,” Haiti coach Nicolas Delepine told FIFA+.
“You’re looking for her to do something when there’s not much between teams.”
While the new features can be viewed as a step forward for the competition, there are concerns that they may lead to some one-sided bouts.
The USWNT defeated Thailand 13-0 in the 2019 edition, sparking controversy about the imbalance between nations, with some countries failing to find resources to compete with the sport’s powerhouses.
All eyes will be on this year’s minnows, who will be hoping to escape such humiliation on the world stage.
- Payments made in the past
The tournament’s prize fund will be increased to $110 million this year, a nearly three-fold increase from 2019 and seven times more than in 2015, and every player at the Women’s World Cup will receive compensation from FIFA in 2023.
Participants will get a certain amount of money based on how far their team advances in the competition under the new payment scheme.
All players who qualify for the group stages will get $30,000, which will be quadrupled for those who advance to the Round of 16.
Megan Rapinoe of the United States talks during a news conference for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup United States Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT) Media Day on June 27, 2023, at Dignity Health Sports Part in Carson, California.
Megan Rapinoe of the United States Women’s National Team believes the World Cup next month will ‘blow the roof off’ worldwide marketing potential for women’s sports.
The amount increases at each level until the World Cup winners each receive $270,000.
“Under this unprecedented new distribution model, each individual player at the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 can now fully rely on remuneration for their efforts as they progress through the tournament,” stated Infantino.
“Given that the average global salary of women’s professional footballers is around $14,000 per year, the funds allocated under this unprecedented new distribution model will have a real and meaningful impact on the lives and careers of these players.”
The funds will also be made to the teams, with each national federation receiving $1,560,000 for making it to the group stage.
The prize pool will grow during the tournament, with the final winner receiving $4,290,000.
FIFPRO hopes that the new model will be a harbinger of things to come for women’s football.
“The key to this model’s success is that it is universally applied and fair, which is what female footballers tell us they want above all else,” said FIFPRO President David Aganzo.
“We see this as only the beginning of a transformational journey for the women’s professional football landscape in collaboration with FIFA.”