It’s time for FIFA and the continental confederations to put their money and their actions where their words are when it comes to support for the women’s game. That could mean many different things, but for now let us focus on the sham that is World Cup qualifying.
The growth of the Women’s World Cup during its first quarter-century was astounding. From 80-minute matches played two days apart while U.S. players rode soot-filled trains across China to the mega event put on across Canada three years ago, there is little doubt the event has arrived on the global stage. Europe now has proper qualifiers spread out over nearly two years. Why then, is qualifying for everyone else condensed into hyperactive tournaments played out over two weeks?
Let’s look at the United States’ path to France. We can analyze all the minutiae of their friendlies and friendly tournaments, but their ticket to the World Cup will be condensed into the pressure cooker of the semifinals of the Concacaf Women’s Championship a week from Sunday. That is 10 days after qualifying begins Thursday against Mexico.
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