Australia and New Zealand will serve as hosts for the 2023 Women’s World Cup, FIFA announced Thursday, sending one of its two largest tournaments, and its first 32-team women’s championship, to two nations that have embraced the women’s game.
FIFA, the governing body of world football, announced its decision after its governing council held a videoconference vote. She also announced that the council had approved a $ 1 billion investment in women’s soccer over the next four years, funding that could prove vital in developing enough competitive national teams to fill a field of 32 teams.
“They have given us a treasure,” said Johanna Wood, a member of the New Zealand FIFA Council who recused himself from the vote. “We will take care of the treasure and work to make women’s football more at the forefront and center of the world stage.”
The council vote was 22-13. A bloc of European and South American members voted for Colombia. United States member former US Soccer President Sunil Gulati voted in favor of the Australia and New Zealand bid. As with the vote for the 2026 Men’s World Cup two years ago, the first since a series of reforms were passed after previous voting scandals, FIFA cast members’ votes after the decision.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino said he was “surprised” by the bloc’s votes in the bidding process. He said technical reports should have an impact on the final decision made by voters, and that he based his own vote on his conclusions.
Infantino also suggested that the decision on the future hosts would be taken by the council and decided by the FIFA member associations at their annual congress, a change that has already occurred for the election of the host of the men’s World Cup.
“There is no reason to treat men and women differently,” said Infantino.
The joint bid from Australia and New Zealand, the first of two countries from two separate confederations, had been considered the top contender to land the tournament for months; several other contenders had withdrawn earlier in the process, and by Thursday their only remaining competition was an offer from Colombia.
Both Australia and New Zealand will seek to benefit from the home advantage. The Matildas, as the Australian team is known, have competed in every Women’s World Cup since 1995, and the team features arguably the best player in the world at Chelsea striker Sam Kerr. But Australia never advanced beyond the World Cup quarterfinals, and came out in France 2019, despite high hopes, after losing a penalty shootout to Norway in the knockout stages.
New Zealand has also become a fixture in the World Cup, with four consecutive appearances. The Football Ferns are the dominant power in their FIFA confederation and have players competing in some of the best professional leagues in the world. But New Zealand’s isolation, and regularly having its best players scattered around the world, has been one of the biggest obstacles preventing it from rising to the highest level of women’s football.
FIFA evaluators rated the Australia-New Zealand offer as the highest, noting not only the infrastructure that countries already had, but, more importantly in any FIFA discussion, that “it would present the proposal commercially more favorable”.
Colombia’s offer would require significant investment in infrastructure, those same evaluators warned, and “it is not clear if this level of investment will be available.”
Colombia, and the regional governing body of South American soccer, filed a complaint about the technical evaluation, saying it had “erroneous and discriminatory conclusions.”
Initially, the winners hoped to face a much larger field. Flustered by the success of last year’s Women’s World Cup in France, which was won by the United States, FIFA announced last August that a record 10 federations had expressed interest in hosting. It turned out that one had done so accidentally, and several others finally decided not to submit formal offers.
In fact, only three offers advanced to the evaluation phase, and Japan’s announcement Monday that it would withdraw, after scoring higher than Colombia’s in evaluations, made FIFA’s decision much more easy.
Still, the increased interest in even considering accommodation was encouraging for FIFA. After seeing over 1.1 million fans attend the latest edition in France, it took Infantino less than a month to gather the support he needed to expand the event to 32 teams from 24 in time for 2023. In 2011, the field It was half as big, with 16 teams.
Infantino said that FIFA would consider turning the Women’s World Cup into a biennial event instead of organizing it every four years, as usual. Such a move, she said, would increase interest in the women’s game, but would also expand the number of hosts and allow FIFA to take it to places where it had not been held before, such as South America and Africa.
While FIFA often chooses the host of the men’s World Cup at least one cycle in advance, the next host country, Qatar, in 2022, will have had a dozen years to prepare, emerged from last year’s women’s championship with more enthusiasm than concrete plans. Countries eventually received until September 2 to confirm their intention to bid. The full offer books had to be submitted by December 13, further narrowing the field, and FIFA conducted official inspections earlier this year.
The pandemic delayed a vote originally scheduled for May until Thursday. That means that the winners will have little more than three years to prepare.