There have been a total of eight previous editions of the Women’s World Cup, but this year’s tournament in Australia and New Zealand promises to look very different.
Since its inauguration in 1991, the competition has grown alongside the development of the women’s game, which has seen an increase in popularity in recent years.
From higher pay to eight new teams, CNN takes a look at what makes this year’s edition a tournament like no other.
This year will be the first time that the Women’s World Cup will be hosted by two confederations, New Zealand and Australia.
The matches will be spread over 10 stadiums in nine different cities, where teams will have to travel around to play their matches.
The five Australian cities – Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth – will host 35 matches, while the four New Zealand cities – Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington and Dunedin – will host 29.
Auckland’s Eden Park will host the opening match between New Zealand and Norway on July 20, and Sydney’s Stadium Australia will welcome the crowd to the final on August 20.
Both countries have a rich sporting history, but neither side has ever won the tournament, which has been dominated by the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) – two-time defending champion and winner of four of the eight previous editions.
It will also be the first tournament to be held in the southern hemisphere, which could give the two hosts an advantage.
However, don’t expect the scorching heat that Australia is famous for. It’s winter time in that part of the world, and the weather is expected to be chilly but pleasant – from the mid-50s to mid-70s Fahrenheit (low-teens to mid-20s Celsius) – with rain expected, especially in matches held in New Zealand.
For the first time, a total of 32 teams will compete for this year’s prize – the most countries to have ever competed at the tournament.
The very first tournament hosted by China in 1991 included only 12 teams, but it was soon expanded to 16 teams in 1999.
The organizers increased the tournament again in 2015, when 24 teams took part in the hunt for football’s biggest prize. But this year’s event will, for the first time, mirror the format used in the men’s World Cup.
The 32 nations have been divided into eight groups of four, with the top two from each advancing to the knockout stage.
Brett Phibbs/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters
New Zealand’s Eden Park will host the opening match of the Women’s World Cup.
The extra games will allow more fans to watch the matches, and FIFA has said the tournament is on track to become the most attended stand-alone women’s sporting event in history.
FIFA confirmed that nearly 1.4 million tickets had been sold for this year’s matches, already surpassing the 1,353,506 spectators who watched the 2015 World Cup in Canada.
“The future is women – and thanks to the fans for supporting what will be the best FIFA Women’s World Cup ever,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino told reporters last month.
“Momentum is building in the host countries and around the globe and I look forward to seeing you there to see the stars of women’s football shine on the world stage.”
Attendance records are also expected to be broken on opening day.
Both host nations, New Zealand and Australia, will look to break their own national attendance records for women’s football matches when they compete against Norway and Ireland respectively.
The large number of teams also means space for eight nations that have never before appeared at a World Cup final round.
Haiti, Republic of Ireland, Morocco, Panama, Philippines, Portugal, Vietnam and Zambia will all make their debuts later this month and breathe new life into the competition.
World No. 77 Zambia is the lowest-ranked team in the tournament and its achievement of reaching the final has been rewarded with group games against Spain, Japan and Costa Rica.
Meanwhile, the Moroccan women’s team has continued the incredible rise of football in the country.
The Atlas Lionesses reached the final of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations last year – a tournament hosted in the country – before being beaten by South Africa.
It comes as the men’s side reached the semi-finals at Qatar 2022 – the first African nation to do so.
Michael Bradley/FIFA/Getty Images
Zambia is one of the teams making their debut at the Women’s World Cup this year.
Haiti, ranked 53rd in the world, are another debutant who will look to upset the odds in Australia and New Zealand.
The country may not be known for its soccer prowess, but the women’s team includes one of the most exciting young players in the world.
Melchie Dumornay, 19, recently signed for Olympique Lyonnais – one of the top women’s teams in Europe – and is ready to make an impact on the international stage.
“Having Melchie is the key. She gives us the X-factor,” Haiti coach Nicolas Delepine said FIFA+.
“When there’s not much between the teams, you’re looking for her to do something.”
While the new additions can be seen as progress for the tournament, there are fears that it could lead to some one-sided matches.
In the 2019 edition, the USWNT thrashed Thailand 13-0 in a match that sparked debate about the disparity between nations – with some countries struggling to find the resources to compete with the sport’s powerhouses.
All eyes will be on this year’s minnows, who will be hoping to avoid such embarrassment on the global stage.
This year’s prize pool for the tournament will rise to $110 million – almost triple from 2019 and seven times more than in 2015 – and in the 2023 edition, all players at the Women’s World Cup will receive compensation from FIFA.
The new payment model will see participants receive a set amount depending on how deep their team enters the tournament.
All players will receive $30,000 for qualifying for the group stage, with the amount doubled for those entering the Round of 16.
The amount increases at each level until the World Championship winners take home $270,000 each.
“Under this unprecedented new distribution model, every single player at the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 can now fully rely on being rewarded for their efforts as they progress through the tournament,” Infantino said.
“The global salary for female professional soccer players is approximately $14,000 annually, so the amounts awarded under this unprecedented new distribution model will have a real and meaningful impact on the lives and careers of these players.”
The payments will also extend to the teams, with national associations each receiving $1,560,000 for reaching the group stage.
The prize pool will increase throughout the tournament, with the eventual champion taking home $4,290,000.
FIFPRO says it wants the new model to be a sign of things to come for women’s football.
“The key to the success of this model is that it is universally applicable and it is fair, which is what female footballers tell us they want above all else,” said FIFPRO President David Aganzo.
“We see this as just the beginning of what will be a transformational journey for the women’s professional football landscape together with FIFA.”