Women’s World Cup
This article is about the women’s association football tournament. For the men’s tournament, see FIFA World Cup.
FIFA Women’s World Cup
Founded 1991; 28 years ago
Region FIFA (International)
Number of teams 24 (finals)
Current champions United States
Most successful team(s) United States
Website FIFA Women’s World Cup
2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup
BC Place 2015 Women’s FIFA World Cup.jpg
BC Place in Vancouver, Canada, hosting a group stage match in 2015.
1991 1995 1999 2003 2007 2011 2015 2019 2023 2027
The FIFA Women’s World Cup is an international football competition contested by the senior women’s national teams of the members of Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the sport’s international governing body. The competition has been held every four years since 1991, when the inaugural tournament, then called the FIFA Women’s World Championship, was held in China. The tournament’s current format, national teams vie for 23 slots in a three-year qualification phase. The host nation’s team is automatically entered as the 24th slot. The tournament proper, alternatively called the World Cup Finals, is contested at venues within the host nation(s) over a period of about one month.
The eight FIFA Women’s World Cup tournaments have been won by four national teams. The United States has won four times, including the last one in 2019. The other winners are Germany, with two titles; and Japan and Norway with one title each.
Six countries have hosted the Women’s World Cup. China and the United States have each hosted the tournament twice, while Canada, France, Germany, and Sweden have each hosted it once.
The first instance of a Women’s World Cup dates back to 1970 with the first international tournament taking place in Italy in July 1970. This was followed by another unofficial tournament the following year in Mexico, where Denmark won the title after defeating Mexico in the final. In the mid-1980s, the Mundialito was held in Italy across four editions with both Italy and England winning two titles.
Several countries lifted their ban on women’s football in the 1970s, leading to new teams being established across Europe and North America. After the first international women’s tournaments were held in Asia in 1975 and Europe in 1984, Ellen Wille declared that she wanted better effort from the FIFA Congress in promoting the women’s game. This came in 1988 in the form of an invitational tournament in China as a test to see if a global women’s World Cup was feasible. Twelve national teams took part in the competition – four from UEFA, three from AFC, two from CONCACAF, and one each from CONMEBOL, CAF and OFC. After the opening match of the tournament between China and Canada was attended by 45,000 people, the tournament was deemed a success, with crowds averaging 20,000. Norway, who was the European champion, defeated Sweden, 1–0, in the final, while Brazil clinched third place by beating the hosts in a penalty shootout. The competition was deemed a success and on 30 June FIFA approved the establishment of an official World Cup, which was to take place in 1991 again in China. Again, twelve teams competed, this time culminating in the United States defeating Norway in the final, 2–1, with Michelle Akers scoring two goals.
The 1995 edition in Sweden saw the experiment of a time-out concept throughout the tournament which was later tightened mid-tournament to only occur after a break in play. The time-out only appeared in the one tournament which saw it scrapped. The final of the 1995 edition saw Norway, who scored 17 goals in the group stage, defeat Germany, 2–0, to capture their only title. In the 1999 edition, one of the most famous moments of the tournament was American defender Brandi Chastain’s victory celebration after scoring the Cup-winning penalty kick against China. She took off her jersey and waved it over her head (as men frequently do), showing her muscular torso and sports bra as she celebrated. The 1999 final in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, had an attendance of 90,185, a world record for a women’s sporting event.
The 1999 and 2003 Women’s World Cups were both held in the United States; in 2003 China was supposed to host it, but the tournament was moved because of SARS. As compensation, China retained its automatic qualification to the 2003 tournament as host nation, and was automatically chosen to host the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Germany hosted the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup, as decided by vote in October 2007. In March 2011, FIFA awarded Canada the right to host the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The 2015 edition saw the field expand from 16 to 24 teams.
During the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, both Formiga of Brazil and Homare Sawa of Japan appeared in their record sixth World Cup, a feat that had never been achieved before by either female or male players. Christie Pearce is the oldest player to ever play in a Women’s World Cup match, at the age of 40 years. In March 2015, FIFA awarded France the right to host the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup over South Korea.
The current trophy was designed in 1998 for the 1999 tournament, and takes the form of a spiral band, enclosing a football at the top, that aims to capture the athleticism, dynamism and elegance of international women’s football. In the 2010s, it was fitted with a cone-shaped base. Underneath the base, the name of each of the tournament’s previous winners is engraved. The trophy is 47 cm (19 in) tall, weighs 4.6 kg (10 lb) and is made of sterling silver clad in 23-karat yellow and white gold, with an estimated value in 2015 of approximately $30,000. By contrast, the men’s World Cup trophy is fabricated in 18-karat gold and has a precious metal value of $150,000. However, a new Winner’s Trophy is constructed for each women’s champion to take home, while there is only one original men’s trophy which is retained by FIFA with each men’s champion taking home a replica trophy.
Main article: FIFA Women’s World Cup qualification
Qualifying tournaments are held within the six FIFA continental zones (Africa, Asia, North and Central America and Caribbean, South America, Oceania, Europe), and are organised by their respective confederations: Confederation of African Football (CAF), Asian Football Confederation (AFC), Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF), South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL), Oceania Football Confederation (OFC), and Union of European Football Associations (UEFA). For each tournament, FIFA decides beforehand the number of berths awarded to each of the continental zones, based on the relative strength of the confederations’ teams. The hosts of the World Cup receive an automatic berth in the finals. Since the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the number of finalists increased from 16 to 24.
The final tournament has featured between 12 and 24 national teams competing over about one month in the host nation(s). There are two stages: the group stage followed by the knockout stage.
In the group stage, teams are drawn into groups of four teams each. Each group plays a round-robin tournament, in which each team is scheduled for three matches against other teams in the same group. The last round of matches of each group is scheduled at the same time to preserve fairness among all four teams. In the 2015 24-team format, the two teams finishing first and second in each group and the four best teams among those ranked third qualified for the round of 16, also called the knockout stage. Points are used to rank the teams within a group. Since 1994, three points have been awarded for a win, one for a draw and none for a loss (before, winners received two points).
The ranking of each team in each group is determined as follows:
Greatest number of points in group matches
Greatest goal difference in group matches
Greatest number of goals scored in group matches
If more than one team remain level after applying the above criteria, their ranking will be determined as follows:
Greatest number of points in head-to-head matches among those teams
Greatest goal difference in head-to-head matches among those teams
Greatest number of goals scored in head-to-head matches among those teams
If any of the teams above remain level after applying the above criteria, their ranking will be determined by the drawing of lots
The knockout stage is a single-elimination tournament in which teams play each other in one-off matches, with extra time and penalty shootouts used to decide the winner if necessary. It begins with the round of 16. This is followed by the quarter-finals, semi-finals, the third-place match (contested by the losing semi-finalists), and the final
Broadcasting and revenue
See also: List of FIFA Women’s World Cup broadcasters
As of 2017, the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final was the most watched football match in American history with nearly 23 million viewers, more than the 2015 NBA Finals and Stanley Cup. It was also the most watched Spanish-language broadcast in tournament history. More than 750 million viewers were reported to have watched the tournament worldwide.
The 2015 Women’s World Cup generated almost $73 million, the 2018 men’s tournament generated an estimated $6.1 billion in revenue.
Main article: FIFA Women’s World Cup awards
At the end of each World Cup, awards are presented to select players and teams for accomplishments other than their final team positions in the tournament. There are currently seven awards:
The Golden Ball for the best player, determined by a vote of media members (first awarded in 1991); the Silver Ball and the Bronze Ball are awarded to the players finishing second and third in the voting respectively.
The Golden Boot (also known as the Golden Shoe) for the top goalscorer (first awarded in 1991). The Silver Boot and the Bronze Boot have been awarded to the second and third top goalscorers respectively.
If two or more players finish the tournament with the same number of goals, tiebreakers are used in the following order:
Fewest minutes played.
The Golden Glove Award for the best goalkeeper, decided by the FIFA Technical Study Group. First awarded in 2007 as “Best Goalkeeper”; current award name adopted in 2011.
The Best Young Player Award for the best player no older than age 21 as of 1 January of the year of the final tournament, decided by the FIFA Technical Study Group (first awarded in 2011).
The FIFA Fair Play Award for the team with the best record of fair play, according to the points system and criteria established by the FIFA Fair Play Committee (first awarded in 1991).
The All-Star Team, consisting of the best players of the tournament as determined by the FIFA Technical Study Group (first selected in 1999).
The Dream Team, consisting of the best players of the tournament as chosen by users of fifa.com (first selected in 2015).
Another award is presented a week after the final match:
The Goal of the Tournament, consisting of the tournament’s best goal, as chosen by users of fifa.com from a shortlist of 12 goals selected by FIFA’s web administrators (first awarded in 2015).
One past award is no longer presented:
The Most Entertaining Team Award for the team that has entertained the public the most during the World Cup, determined by a poll of the general public (awarded in 2003 and 2007).
- The 2003 Women’s World Cup was originally planned to be hosted by China, but was awarded to the United States in May 2003 after a major SARS outbreak.
- The 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup set a new attendance record for all FIFA competitions besides the men’s FIFA World Cup.
Hosts and results
In all, 36 nations have played in at least one Women’s World Cup. Of those, four nations have won the World Cup. With four titles, the United States is the most successful Women’s World Cup team and is one of only seven nations to play in every World Cup. They have also had the most top four finishes (8), medals (8) and final appearances (5), including the longest streak of three consecutive finals in 2011, 2015, and 2019.
Teams reaching the top four
|Team||Titles||Runners-up||Third place||Fourth place||Total|
|United States||4 (1991, 1999, 2015, 2019)||1 (2011)||3 (1995, 2003, 2007)||8|
|Germany||2 (2003, 2007)||1 (1995)||2 (1991, 2015)||5|
|Norway||1 (1995)||1 (1991)||2 (1999, 2007)||4|
|Japan||1 (2011)||1 (2015)||2|
|Sweden||1 (2003)||3 (1991, 2011, 2019)||4|
|Brazil||1 (2007)||1 (1999)||2|
|China PR||1 (1999)||1 (1995)||2|
|England||1 (2015)||1 (2019)||2|
Best performances by confederations
As of 2019[update], four of the six FIFA confederations have made it to a Women’s World Cup final, the only exceptions being CAF (Africa) and the OFC (Oceania). CONMEBOL is the only confederation to have made a World Cup final without winning, following Brazil‘s defeat in the 2007 final. The farthest advancing African team was Nigeria, who were eliminated in the quarter finals in 1999. Oceania has sent two teams, Australia and New Zealand, to the World Cup but neither team were able to advance from the group stage.
The United States and Norway are the only teams to have won the tournament in their own confederations, with the U.S. winning in 1999 (at home) and 2015 (in Canada), and Norway in 1995 (in Sweden).
|Round of 16 (since 2015)||7||3||4||3||0||15||32|