FIFA expects to decide the hosts of the 2023 Women’s World Cup in March 2020 – about a year later than the timeline for the past two Women’s World Cup host selections. In contrast, the 2026 Men’s World Cup hosts were already decided as of June last year.
The process for the 2023 tournament had mysteriously dragged on without official word until Tuesday, when FIFA released its timeline for bidding on the tournament. Expressions of interest are due on March 15, with a more formal registration deadline of April 16 and the complete bid books due on Oct. 4.
According to the Associated Press, the hosts will be selected in private by the 37-member FIFA Council. The hosts of the 2026 men’s tournament – a joint bid from the U.S., Canada and Mexico – were chosen by public vote from the larger FIFA Congress.
France was awarded hosting rights to this year’s Women’s World Cup on March 19, 2015 – over four years ahead of hosting the tournament. Declarations of interest for that tournament were due in April 2014, with official bids due in October of that year. Canada’s selection as 2015 host followed a similar timeline. That puts this timeline for the 2023 women’s tournament a full year behind based on recent history.
Australia and Japan ostensibly are the favorites to host the 2023 Women’s World Cup. Australia has the most organized and only formal campaign to date. Japan spoke about bidding for the event some six years ago now, and on Wednesday the federation confirmed that it plans do so.
South Africa president Danny Jordaan, upon his country’s recent qualification for the Women’s World Cup for the first time in 2019, announced that the country would bid for the 2023 event.
Then there is Colombia, which as recently as January has shown interest in bidding on the 2023 Women’s World Cup despite what appears to be waning interest in actually supporting its domestic league and the national team, which won’t appear at this year’s World Cup or next year’s Olympics – thanks to the still-ridiculous double-jeopardy qualifying setup – after a run of four straight major tournaments.
Where will that leave us?
Firstly, there’s a political dance to all of this that will likely see other “expressions of interest” emerge before some candidates drop out either in April or October (or, if it’s like the 2015 bidding process, just a couple of days before selection time in March, when Zimbabwe dropped out and left Canada’s bid unopposed). So, just because a country expresses interest – particularly publicly – doesn’t mean that there will be any tangible effort put in to bid for the tournament.
What will be fascinating will be FIFA’s own internal politics and desires – if we’re at all privy to them, given the reported closed-door nature that will be used for selection of the hosts.
Australia is miles ahead of any other hypothetical bid in the public sector, and the hosting of the forthcoming Cup of Nations tournament is meant to serve as both a rallying point and a tangible test run. Looking from the perspective of the country’s recent rise in international status and improvement of professional standards in its domestic league, the Aussies would seem to be natural hosts. A home tournament could be seen as an inflection point in the way that 1999 was in the United States.
The Women’s World Cup has, to date, only ever taken place in Asia, Europe and North America. Women’s soccer in South American and Africa remains significantly behind the advancements we’ve seen at the highest levels in those three aforementioned continents (each of which has a wide range of professionalism within them, in different countries). At some point, FIFA will likely come around to realizing that, with the right strategic investment and initiatives, it has the power to change the perception of women’s soccer – and women in sports – in a particular country in South America or Africa – or even the wider continents at large (joint bids are all the rage these days).
The 2010 Men’s World Cup in South Africa was very much about legacy; it was the first (and to date, only) time that the prized tournament has been played in Africa, and disgraced ex-FIFA president Sepp Blatter was overt about his desire to leave a legacy (perhaps one for himself as much as the host country) in making that event happen. Will current president Gianni Infantino, and the 36 other members deciding the fate of the 2023 Women’s World Cup, feel that now is the time to advance the women’s game on one of these continents which hasn’t yet hosted the big event?
That’s a simplistic and generalized view, of course. And you need not be a geography expert to point out that Australia, which has never hosted a senior World Cup, is, in fact, another continent. In FIFA’s world, however, Australia is a member of the Asian Football Confederation as of 2006, a move that Football Federation Australia made in search of better on-field competition.
It’s unclear why there has been such a delay in the bidding process for this 2023 World Cup cycle. It will be wildly interesting to see which countries submit official bids – all current signs point to a first-time host – as well as how the voting blocs divide up. That is, if we get to see that information.
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