FIFA seeks quick ex­pan­sion of Women’s World Cup to 32 teams

The Saline Courier Weekend - - SPORTS -

FIFA wants its rul­ing coun­cil to fast-track ex­pan­sion of the next Women’s World Cup to 32 teams.

In a doc­u­ment seen by The As­so­ci­ated Press, FIFA asked coun­cil mem­bers Fri­day to ap­prove adding eight more teams within days and with­out a for­mal meet­ing. Agree­ment would in­clude ur­gently re­boot­ing the on­go­ing bid contest to host the 2023 tour­na­ment.

FIFA be­lieves the 2019 World Cup, won by the United States in France this month, showed a big­ger tour­na­ment is com­mer­cially pos­si­ble, and would speed de­vel­op­ment of the women’s game.

FIFA Pres­i­dent Gianni In­fantino set the 32-team target in Paris on July 5, and pro­posed dou­bling tour­na­ment prize money to $60 mil­lion.

“FIFA has a re­spon­si­bil­ity to en­sure that its women’s com­pe­ti­tions not only show­case women’s foot­ball at the high­est level, but also act as a catalyst to grow the game,” coun­cil mem­bers have been told.

Nine FIFA mem­ber fed­er­a­tions are cur­rently pre­par­ing to sub­mit for­mal plans for a 24-team tour­na­ment by Oct. 4.

They are: Ar­gentina, Aus­tralia, Brazil, Bo­livia, Colom­bia, Ja­pan, New Zealand, South Africa and South Korea, which could bid with North Korea.

A faster timetable is needed be­cause the 37-mem­ber FIFA Coun­cil next meets in per­son from Oct. 23-24 in Shang­hai.

FIFA now wants to mod­ify the bid process in Au­gust by ask­ing the nine fed­er­a­tions to re-con­firm in­ter­est for a 32-team tour­na­ment, and invit­ing other fed­er­a­tions to en­ter. Bids would be sub­mit­ted in De­cem­ber and a FIFA-RUN eval­u­a­tion of the can­di­dates would be pub­lished in April.

If coun­cil mem­bers agree to the ex­pan­sion by next week, FIFA sug­gests they would pick the host next May in­stead of March as pre­vi­ously sched­uled.

It is un­clear how the ex­tra eight places would be al­lo­cated, with FIFA propos­ing to con­sult its con­ti­nen­tal gov­ern­ing bod­ies.

“Such pro­posal would be for­mally ap­proved by the FIFA Coun­cil at a fu­ture meet­ing,” FIFA said.

The 32-team men’s World Cup al­lo­cates 13 qual­i­fy­ing places to Eu­rope for the 2022 edi­tion, five guar­an­teed places to Africa, four each to South Amer­ica and Asia, and three to the North Amer­i­can re­gion known as CONCACAF. Two more places are de­cided by in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal play­offs that ex­clude Eu­rope or Africa.

The 2019 Women’s World Cup al­lo­cated eight qual­i­fy­ing slots to Eu­rope, not in­clud­ing host France. Five went to Asian teams, three each to Africa and CONCACAF, two to South Amer­ica and one to Ocea­nia. One was de­cided by a North Amer­ica-vs.-south Amer­ica play­off.

FIFA is also likely to change the com­mer­cial structure of the Women’s World Cup, giv­ing it ded­i­cated spon­sors. Cur­rently, FIFA’S spon­sors have deals across the men’s and women’s tour­na­ments.

FIFA noted Fri­day that “the cur­rent eco­nomic model has the pos­si­bil­ity to shift from be­ing sub­si­dized by men’s foot­ball to be­com­ing a sus­tain­able rev­enue stream.”

AP

Me­gan Rapinoe cel­e­brates her team’s vic­tory af­ter the Women’s World Cup fi­nal be­tween U.S. and The Nether­lands out­side Lyon, France. Pen­guin Press an­nounced Thursday that Rapinoe’s book, cur­rently un­ti­tled, will come out in Fall 2020. Pen­guin is calling the book a “per­fect ve­hi­cle” for an “hon­est, thought­ful, un­apolo­getic” take on ev­ery­thing from soc­cer to na­tion­al­ism to gay rights.

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