It’s official — the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup is heading to Australia and New Zealand.
In what is one of the biggest boosts football and women’s sport in Australia has ever received , the world’s attention will be turned down under for a month-long football festival.
Here’s everything you need to know about how the tournament will work.
When will the tournament take place?
The dates FIFA has nominated for the tournament to take place are between July 10 to August 10, 2023.
This, being the southern hemisphere winter, would make playing conditions perfect across the two host countries.
There is no clash with either the A-League or W-League, but the grass-roots state-based competitions will be running at the same time in both countries — considered a bonus for the bid team to drive engagement.
When it comes to potential clashes, the elephants in the room are the NRL and AFL competitions in Australia, and provincial rugby union competition in New Zealand.
However, the bid team state they have “secured the support and commitment of other sports to collaborate on the delivery of the tournament” — which was not the case for the ill-fated 2022 bid.
Where will the games be played?
The bid proposes 13 stadiums in 12 cities across Australia and New Zealand, telling FIFA it would prefer a minimum of 10 to be used — five in each country.
FIFA has the final say, but noted all the proposed stadiums performed strongly against the required criteria.
Eden Park in Auckland is down to host the opening game, with Stadium Australia in Sydney pencilled in for the final.
The planned redevelopment of Sydney Olympic stadium into a 70,000-seat, rectangular facility was recently put on ice , but FIFA demands the World Cup final is played in a venue with a minimum capacity of 55,000 — and Homebush is the only place that fulfils that criteria, redeveloped or not.
|Sydney Football Stadium||Sydney||42,512|
|Wellington Regional Stadium||Wellington||39,000|
*Redeveloped capacity. Current capacity is 82,500.
The bid team is banking on welcoming 1.5 million fans through the gates across those venues for an average of 24,000 spectators per game, which would make it the most well-supported women’s World Cup in history.
How many teams will there be?
The 2023 Women’s World Cup will feature 32 teams, up from the 24 that competed in France in 2019.
There will be eight groups of four teams in the initial stages, split evenly between Australia and New Zealand.
Qualification will start next year — contingent on an easing of the global coronavirus pandemic.
As with the men’s tournament, the hosts qualify automatically. In the instance of a joint bid, both teams get the nod.
The breakdown of how many teams will be able to qualify from each confederation will be determined in due course.
Who will be the favourites?
It’s not too much of a stretch to say our Matildas will be among the teams most likely to lift the cup at the end of the tournament.
Australian women’s football has been going through its own “golden generation” in recent years, and it now looks like it could time its crescendo perfectly at a World Cup in its own backyard.
They’ll have to get through the usual juggernauts though, most notably the USA. The US Women’s National Team has won the World Cup four times, including at the past two tournaments in 2015 and 2019.
Of the European contingent Germany, France, the Netherlands and Sweden are all strong, while England has enjoyed a rise in recent years. And while Australia is currently ranked higher than Brazil, it would be foolish to count the South Americans out.
But with three years until kick off, there is plenty of water to go under the bridge. Australia will spend those three years preparing for its chance on its biggest stage ever.
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