On Thursday, the first ever Women’s World Cup will get underway in Australia and New Zealand, with the United States of America being the favorites to win an unprecedented third straight championship in a historic month for women’s football. The tournament will include 32 teams.
When you consider that the event first took place in 1991 and consisted of just 16 teams as recently as 2011, and then 24 in France four years ago when the United States of America successfully defended their championship, you can see how quickly it has grown.
This is a reflection of the tremendous increase in interest in women’s football that has occurred over the last decade outside of its traditional base in the United States, and a swarm of European teams will be hoping to take their crown.
With prolific Chelsea attacker Sam Kerr at the helm, Australia will want to make the most of playing at home and go all the way to the championship game, which will take place in Sydney on August 20.
This year’s World Cup has a greater number of countries than ever before, but that’s not its only distinguishing feature.
FIFA has tripled the prize money compared with 2019 and the overall pot, which also includes compensation for clubs releasing players, has increased from $50 million four years ago to $152 million. The increase comes after FIFA announced that it will triple the prize money for the World Cup in 2019.
It is a significant increase from the $15 million that was given in 2015 and another evidence that women’s football is experiencing a golden period.
More proof that the game is at its highest point ever is provided by the sizable audiences that attend club and international matches, notably in Europe.
TV blackout avoided
Despite this, the prize pool is still a pittance when compared to the $440 million that will be awarded to the winners of the men’s World Cup in Qatar in 2022.
It wasn’t until the previous month that a standoff about the sale of broadcast rights in the five largest European countries (Germany, the United Kingdom, France, and Italy and Spain) was finally settled.
Late in the day, the possibility of a blackout on television was avoided as a direct result of FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s public criticism of the amount of money being paid by broadcasters.
“FIFA is not only talking the talk; they are doing the walk as well. Unfortuitously, this is not the case for everyone working in the business as a whole. “Broadcasters and sponsors need to do more in this respect,” Infantino said in March. He went on to say that the governing body of international football was getting bids that amounted to barely one percent of what was being paid for the men’s event.
Just the previous week, an agreement to prevent a blackout in Japan was finally achieved.
“It is actually terrible business if you are not tuning in,” said Megan Rapinoe, the seasoned superstar of the United States squad and a cultural icon whose influence extends well beyond the realm of the sport. Rapinoe is a member of the United States national team.
“You are losing out on a big cultural event. This represents a paradigm change internationally, not just in the United States, since it is the most important women’s athletic event that has ever taken place anywhere in the globe.
After announcing that she would step away from the sport at the conclusion of the current season, the 38-year-old will compete in her last World Cup.
The epidemic of knee injuries
Rapinoe was one of the United States stars who spearheaded their struggle for equal pay, which resulted in a historic collective-bargaining pact last year. This deal stipulated that the country’s male and female players would get an equal portion of the World Cup prize money provided by FIFA.
In the lead-up to this event, Canada’s national team, which won gold in the Olympics, was involved in a dispute on salary, funding, and contractual obligations, and they even threatened to go on strike.
While this was going on, players for France’s national team staged a protest against the way things were being run, which led to the firing of the team’s coach.
However, the World Cup would still be tarnished by the absence of multiple key players due of major knee injuries. This meant that some of France’s biggest stars would be at the tournament after all, despite having threatened to drop out.
Catarina Macario and Mallory Swanson of the United States of America, together with England’s captain Leah Williamson and top striker Beth Mead, have been ruled out of the competition. Also ruled out are the prolific Dutch forward Vivianne Miedema, the French forwards Delphine Cascarino and Marie-Antoinette Katoto, and the prolific Dutch forward Vivianne Miedema.
Despite this, the incumbent Ballon d’Or winner, Alexia Putellas of Spain, will be present after she has fully recovered from the anterior cruciate ligament injury that forced her to miss nine months of competition.
The charge was led by England.
The United States national team’s goal is to become the first to win three Women’s World Cups in a row, and they will face their toughest competition from teams from Europe and Australia.
The reigning champions of Europe Together with Spain, Germany, Sweden, and the Netherlands, who finished second in the 2019 competition, England is leading the push.
“The expectations are really high, and yes, we do have a dream,” the coach of England stated, Sarina Wiegman.
On July 22, the United States of America will open their title defense against Vietnam, who is also competing in their first World Cup, while England will start their tournament in Brisbane against one of the many countries who are making their World Cup debuts, Haiti.
The tournament will begin with New Zealand taking on Norway, led by 2018 Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg, in Auckland, and Australia taking on Ireland in front of a sell-out crowd of more than 80,000 people in Sydney. Both matches will be played on the same day.