KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: The governing council of international federation – having barely caught its breath from the 2019 Women’s World Cup – has hurried through a decision to lift the field for the next finals in 2023 from 24 to 32.

The host for the finals has yet to be chosen and the nine bidders are already readjusting their proposals ahead of the bid books submission on October 4.

Host venue hopefuls are Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa and South Korea.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino’s determination to prove his support for the women’s game was underscored by his decision to organise an expansion vote in a conference call ahead of the council’s next formal meeting in Shanghai on October 23-24.

Infantino said: “The astounding success of this year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in France made it very clear that this is the time to keep the momentum going and take concrete steps to foster the growth of women’s football. I am glad to see this proposal becoming a reality.

“The expansion reaches far beyond the eight additional participating teams: it means that, from now on, dozens more member associations will organise their women’s football programme knowing they have a realistic chance of qualifying.

“The FIFA Women’s World Cup is the most powerful trigger for the professionalisation of the women’s game, but it comes but once every four years and is only the top of a much greater pyramid. In the meantime, we all have a duty to do the groundwork and strengthen women’s football development infrastructure across all confederations.”

The first positive reaction to the expansion came from the Football Federation Australia.

Chair Chris Nikou said: “The groundwork completed by our bid team, which includes gaining the official support of the New South Wales Government as recently as Tuesday this week, means Australia is well advanced in many of the elements required.

“FFA will await the updated documentation from FIFA and, once received, will work diligently with relevant stakeholders to adjust features of our original and ongoing planning to address the expanded competition requirements. Australia’s appetite to host the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2023 is only enhanced by the news received overnight.”

A FIFA statement said:

Having been presented with a background document on the expansion, FIFA’s decision-making body voted in favour of adopting the 32-team format and, as a consequence, updating the hosting requirements and the timeline of the bidding process for 2023. The key milestones of this updated timeline are:

  • August 2019: circular to be sent out with a short time window for:current bidding member associations to reconfirm their interest in bidding any other eligible member associations to express their interest in bidding
  • December 2019: deadline for bid submission
  • April 2020: expected publication of Bid Evaluation Report
  • May 2020: expected appointment of host(s)

The FIFA administration will also initiate a consultation process with the confederations in order to develop a proposal for the slot allocation, which should be approved by the FIFA Council.