The two World Cup options set to define the future of women’s football

The two World Cup options set to define the future of women’s football

For all that the women’s game is booming, many involved would point to this week’s massive decision surrounding the next host of the Fifa Women’s World Cup as an illustration of how much more needs to be done.

Fifa will announce the 2027 hosts on Friday, just three years before it starts. That is quite a contrast to the men’s game, where we’ve known the hosts for 2034 since last October. There isn’t any consistency.

The timescale of that early 2034 decision was largely down to the wider politics, and Friday’s vote is entirely conditioned by the same context.

On the one side is a joint bid between Belgium, Netherlands and Germany. On the other is Brazil. The USA had been expected to put in a bid but that’s where the politics come in. USA was seen as having a low chance due to the fact the country already has the 2025 Club World Cup and 2026 World Cup in the men’s game. By contrast, the thinking before Fifa Congress in Bangkok is that Brazil is the outstanding favourite for 2027, in part because it missed out on those three opening games for the 2030 World Cup in Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay (before it decamps to Morocco-Portugal-Spain).

That decision must go to all 211 Council members, of course, which marks such a contrast from the infamous processes for the 2018 and 2022 men’s World Cups. At the same time, the pervading mood is that wider politics still influence such decisions. Many voters are in thrall to the Fifa system under president Gianni Infantino.

There are still cases to be made for both bids. The women’s game is viewed as not as developed as it should be in South America given the sport’s profound cultural popularity there, but it is growing, just as it is everywhere else. A Brazil World Cup would be the first on the continent, and represent both a symbolic and tangible landmark in developing the game there. There’s also the fact the tournament was held in Europe as recently as 2019, just two cycles ago.

That brings developmental, logistical and romantic reasons for Brazil. Their bid also scored marginally higher, at 4.0 out of five to the joint-European bid’s score of 3.7, in Fifa’s own technical report. The infrastructure is there from the 2014 men’s tournament.

At the same time, while acknowledging potentially “tremendous impact on women’s football in the region”, the report notes that a South American World Cup would require “air travel” between host cities “which is carbon intensive”.

This is one of many areas where the so-called ‘BNG’ bid believes it has an advantage.

England will hope to rally after heartbreak in last year’s World Cup (Getty Images)

For one, although it is taking place in three countries, the area has been purposely defined so as to be in as small and self-contained a geographical space as possible. This means that fans would be able to take trains everywhere, but that also has another virtue. It would foster the sense of a “global party” in one area, as opposed to fans dispersed over a large country, at a point when women’s football is burgeoning. The belief is that this would generate further emotional momentum. Even more importantly for many voting member associations, it would say that smaller nations do have a chance of bidding for World Cups if they come together and think strategically about it.

This was one aspect the 2014 men’s tournament in Brazil seemed to typify, after all. It was in the middle of an era where the World Cup had seemed to grow to such size that only continent-sized countries could host it. Brazil, after all, followed South Africa and preceded both Russia and now USA. The women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand similarly had many virtues, but one of those was definitely not the constant air travel required.

Although the men’s World Cup in Qatar rightly got so much criticism for many other reasons in the middle of all of that, football stakeholders did feel that being able to go to two games in a day is something that should be looked at for future tournaments.

Fans attending any ‘BNG’ tournament would be encouraged to do exactly that.

Aitana Bonmati and Mariona Caldentey of Spain celebrate (Getty Images)

Campaign organisers believe this is something else that could have a multiplying effect in terms of the momentum of their World Cup. Fans would be meeting other fans, while also going to more games.

Beyond all that, they would point to something that tends to be especially persuasive for football voters: money. The ‘BNG’ bid estimates an income of €1b due to its hosting in western Europe, with all of that going back into the women’s game at a key point in its development.

Friday’s vote will say much about the future of the women’s game, but also wider football politics.

The expectation is that Brazil will win. ‘BNG’ hopes to convince voters of the merits of its bid.