The Women’s World Cup expanded to 32 teams this year. Has the quality suffered?

The 2023 Women’s World Cup expanded from 24 teams to 32, leading to questions about whether the quality of play would diminish, however, new teams have displayed robust performances.

Background: The Women’s World Cup, held every four years, began with 12 countries in 1991 and expanded over the years to 16, then 24, and it included 32 teams for the 2023 tournament in Australia and New Zealand.
* Eight new teams made their tournament debut this year: the Philippines, Ireland, Zambia, Haiti, Vietnam, Portugal, Panama, and Morocco. However, none of these newcomers have won a match yet.

Performance analysis: While no debut country has won a match, their performances have been surprisingly strong.
* For instance, Haiti, ranked 53rd globally, gave a tough game to fourth-ranked England, holding them to a low 1-0.
* Other debut teams also held established teams to low scores, such as Ireland losing to Australia 1-0, and newcomer Vietnam allowing only three goals to top-ranked U.S.A.

Looking forward: FIFA president Infantino argued that the Women’s World Cup is instrumental in the professionalization of women’s soccer and expressed a possibility for more teams in future tournaments.
* The tournament appears to be serving as good exposure and experience for new teams. In the 2019 Cup, debutants South Africa and Jamaica didn’t advance out of group play, but they returned this year, with South Africa as African Champions.
* Similarly, countries that debuted in 2015, Switzerland and Spain, are also competing this year, with Spain now among the top ten in world rankings.

View original article on NPR

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