FIFA looks to expand Women’s World Cup from 24 to 32 teams

LYON, France — FIFA will seek to expand the Women’s World Cup from 24 to 32 teams and double the prize money while maintaining a significant financial gulf with funding for the men’s tournament.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino will need quick approval from ruling bodies to enlarge the Women’s World Cup, with bidding already under way for the 2023 edition. The process would have to be reopened if countries needed to find more stadiums to accommodate more teams and additional games.

The 37-member FIFA Council had been due to vote on the 2023 Women’s World Cup host in March 2020, with nine countries expressing interest in bidding.

The nine, including recent men’s World Cup hosts Brazil and South Africa, must submit formal bid plans by Oct. 4. The other contenders are Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Colombia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea, which could bid with North Korea.

“Nothing is impossible and based on the success of this World Cup of course we have to believe bigger and to do what we should have done already probably some time ago,” Infantino said ahead of Sunday’s final between the United States and the Netherlands. “But now we have the evidence to do it for women’s football.”

Infantino previously prioritized enlarging the men’s World Cup, with a jump from 32 to 48 teams when the United States co-hosts with Canada and Mexico in 2026.

The 2022 men’s World Cup in Qatar will see teams splitting prize money of $440 million and $209 million will be made available to clubs releasing players.

But women’s teams earn significantly less for competing at their showpiece. Even doubling the prize money, team preparation funding and cash for clubs releasing players — as Infantino disclosed Friday — will only lift the figure to $100 million.

FIFA’s cash reserves at the end of 2018 stood at $2.74 billion.

U.S. update: American forward Megan Rapinoe said she is l on track to be ready for Sunday’s final. Rapinoe sat out of the semifinal Tuesday with a slight hamstring strain. “It was just minor to begin with, so every day it feels better and better, just increasing the load and I’ll be ready for the final,” she said. … Alex Morgan said her tea-sipping celebration after scoring in the semifinal against England was a nod to “Game of Thrones” actress Sophie Turner’s amusing Instagram posts, and wasn’t intended as a dig at England.

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