The FIFA Council unanimously voted to expand the FIFA Women’s World Cup from 24 to 32 teams. The decision will go into effect for the 2023 tournament.
Bidding to become the host country of the 2023 World Cup was already underway, so the FIFA Council expedited the expansion decision in order to provide time for bidders to adjust their portfolios.
Nine countries were previously expected to submit proposals on Oct. 4. Countries will now need to reconfirm their hosting interest in August, and the submission deadline for potential hosts will be pushed back to December to allow countries to reconfigure their plans for the additional eight teams added to the tournament.
This means that the Bid Evaluation Report will not be published until April, and the decision is not expected to be announced until May.
“The astounding success of this year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in France made it very clear that this is the time to keep the momentum going and take concrete steps to foster the growth of women’s football,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino said. “I am glad to see this proposal – the first of several − becoming a reality.”
FIFA will also take steps to develop a new proposal for the process of slot allocation, which will be formed out of consultation with the confederations and then approved by the FIFA Council. Slot allocation became a talking point after the 13-0 rout of Thailand by the U.S. in this year’s World Cup, which sparked debate over the amount of World Cup bids that each confederation should receive.
In 2019, the Asian Football Confederation received five slots; the Confederation of African Football received three; Concacaf received 3.5; the South American Football Confederation received 2.5; the Oceania Football Confederation received one and the Union of European Football Associations received the remaining eight slots. In expanding to 32 teams, FIFA will now need to consider which confederations will receive the new slots for the 2023 World Cup to create an equitable balance of competition.
“The expansion reaches far beyond the eight additional participating teams; it means that, from now on, dozens more member associations will organize their women’s football program knowing they have a realistic chance of qualifying. The FIFA Women’s World Cup is the most powerful trigger for the professionalization of the women’s game, but it comes but once every four years and is only the top of a much greater pyramid,” Infantino said. “In the meantime, we all have a duty to do the groundwork and strengthen women’s football development infrastructure across all confederations.”