Every four years, the world’s best soccer players go head-to-head on the sport’s biggest stage to determine which team will be named World Cup champion. Thankfully, for passionate soccer fans—and those who are simply intrigued by the sport and want to give it a try—the time has rolled around once again: The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup is fast approaching.
The latest installment is already shaping up to be one for the history books: It’s coming with a whole bunch of firsts—in regard to location of play, the teams that’ll be involved, and a whole lot more. If you haven’t watched the tournament before, the logistics may seem a bit complicated. But don’t fret, because we have you covered with all the details. For everything you need to know about the 2023 Women’s World Cup, keep on reading!
1. The World Cup will be played in multiple locations this year.
Four years after the 2019 tournament became the most watched Women’s World Cup in history—reaching nearly 994 million people—FIFA, soccer’s governing body, is taking another major step in growing the sport globally.
For the first time in the 30-plus years of competition, the Women’s World Cup will take place in two different locations: Australia and New Zealand, both of which will serve as cohosts. The 2023 event also marks the first time the games will take place in the Southern Hemisphere.
A slight potential snag with all this? The locations also mean that you should expect some less-than-opportune timing if you’re planning to watch the matches live (more on that below), since Australian Eastern Standard Time and New Zealand Standard Time are 15 hours and 17 hours, respectively, ahead of Eastern Standard Time. Expect some games to be early in the morning and late at night.
2. It takes weeks to crown the champions.
There’s a lot that goes into winning a World Cup. Like lots of sporting tournaments, it’s not a one-and-done deal: The World Cup actually spans an entire month. The 2023 World Cup will run from July 20 through August 20, with the final taking place on that last day in Stadium Australia—the same place that hosted the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. Now known as Accor Stadium, the venue, which is the 11th largest in soccer, will provide plenty of space for fiery fans with a capacity of 83,500.
The tournament’s 64 matches will be split between five Australian cities (including Sydney, Perth, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Adelaide) and four in New Zealand (Auckland, Wellington, Hamilton, and Dunedin). For a complete listing of the schedule, follow FIFA’s countdown to kick-off.
3. The 2023 World Cup will include more countries than ever before.
For the first time ever, FIFA has expanded the number of teams to 32, up from 24 at the last World Cup. And a quarter of those squads are new qualifiers: Morocco, Zambia, Panama, Haiti, Vietnam, Philippines, Portugal, and Ireland. (Teams gain entry into the World Cup by winning qualifier matches in the months leading up to the tournament.)
The complete list of teams that made it to the 2023 World Cup include: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Haiti, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Panama, Philippines, Portugal, Republic of Ireland, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United States, Vietnam, and Zambia.
4. Tournament play begins in groups before the competition whittles down.
The 32 teams set to compete will undergo a grueling four-week playing process to fight for a spot in the final. Here’s what you need to know: Each team is assigned one of eight groups: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, or H. (The US team is in Group E, which also includes the Netherlands, Portugal, and Vietnam.)
Teams play one match against the other squads in their group. The emphasis is on racking up enough points, which are determined by each team’s number of victories (3 points), draws (1 point), and losses (0 points). The top two teams with the most points from each group move on to the first knockout stage. This is known as the round of 16, called that for the number of teams that remain.
In this stage, the first-place team of each group plays the second-place team of another group. The winners of this—the eight teams left—go on to the next knockout stage, or the quarterfinals. The winning four advance to the semifinals, and then two teams are left standing for the final. Third place is determined in a match between the losers of the semifinal round.
5. The US is looking to be the first team ever to three-peat.
Since the inaugural Women’s World Cup in 1991, the US has dominated the event, racking up four titles out of the eight tournaments. They’ll remain the leaders after the 2023 World Cup, regardless of who wins, since the country in second place, Germany, only has two titles.
Still, the US team is looking to add to their lead, and they’re in good position to do so: After back-to-back titles in 2015 and 2019, they enter the 2023 edition as the two-time defending champions and the returning favorite.
They’ll face some tough competition, though. Canada is returning after securing Olympic gold in Tokyo, and England won the European championship in 2022. The US is also coming off a disappointing showing at the 2020 Olympics, where they earned bronze.
6. The US captain may be out, but other players are ready to step up.
Just a month before play was set to begin, US captain Becky Sauerbrunn confirmed that a foot injury she sustained in April would keep her from World Cup play. “I have no doubt that the 23 players on the final roster have everything they need—in their feet, their heads and their hearts—to bring our fifth trophy home,” she wrote on Twitter.
Even with Sauerbrunn out, there are still a bunch of players to watch on the US team, including several accomplished mainstays and some up-and-coming talent:
- Alex Morgan: The forward is heading into her fourth World Cup with two gold medals (2019 and 2015) and one silver (2011) in hand. She’ll take to the pitch in Australia and New Zealand just six months after she scored against Brazil at the 2023 SheBelieves Cup, surpassing Joy Fawcett for the most goals scored as a mother in USWNT history.
- Megan Rapinoe: Another forward also heading to the World Cup for the fourth—and final—time, Rapinoe ranks in the top 10 in USWNT history in both goals and assists.
- Crystal Dunn: The defender has represented Team USA in the last two Olympic Games, and will be returning to the US roster just over a year after giving birth to her son, Marcel, in May 2022.
- Trinity Rodman: The 21-year-old forward, who plays for the Washington Spirit, was named the NWSL Rookie of the Year and the US Soccer Female Player of the Year in 2021.
- Sophia Smith: The 22-year-old forward earned her first Senior National Team call-up in 2017 at the age of 16. She made her national debut in 2020, when she became the first player born in the 2000s to earn a cap for the USWNT.
- Sofia Huerta: This summer, defender Huerta and fellow USWNT player Ashley Sanchez will make history as the first Mexican Americans to represent Team USA since Stephanie Cox in 2007.
7. There are a bunch of competitors you’ll want to keep an eye on too.
There are plenty of players on teams from Brazil to Australia looking to dethrone the United States as defending champions:
- Sam Kerr: Leading one of the host countries, Kerr is Australia’s captain and all-time leading scorer. She’s aiming to help the Matildas—what the Aussies call the women’s national team—improve on their fourth-place showing at the Tokyo Games.
- Alex Popp: A German Olympic gold medalist, Popp is competing at her fourth World Cup and aims to lead her country to their third team title.
- Christine Sinclair: The Canadian veteran is entering her sixth World Cup—yep, she first played back in the 2003 competition. She also leads all soccer scorers, both men and women, with 190 goals on her resume.
- Alexia Putellas: Despite undergoing ACL surgery last summer, Spain’s captain is one to watch. The two-time Ballon d’Or winner (one of soccer’s most prestigious awards) was cleared to play earlier this year, and is currently number two behind Kerr on EA Sports ratings.
- Marta: The Brazilian soccer legend, known affectionately by just her first name, confirmed that this summer will be her sixth and final World Cup. She is the country’s all-time leading scorer with 117 goals.
8. The World Cup comes amid more progress on equality than ever before, but there’s still more to be done.
This year, FIFA finally began to close the gap in World Cup prize money, which has historically remained unequal between men’s and women’s competition. During the 2018 and 2019 tournaments, the men earned $400 million, while the women were awarded $30 million, according to CNBC. This year, the women will take home $152 million compared to the men’s $440 million purse. In March, FIFA president Gianni Infantino announced that the governing body’s “ambition” and “objective” is to have equal prize money at the 2026 and 2027 men’s and women’s World Cups, as Yahoo Sports reported.
This mirrors progress on the national front too. In 2022, the USWNT finally landed a collective bargaining agreement with US Soccer that equalized everything from ticket revenue shares to World Cup bonuses for the women’s and men’s national team. “We hope that this settlement provides inspiration and hope to all women fighting for equality, not just female athletes,” USWNT midfielder Sam Mewis told SELF last year.
But other national teams, including Canada, are still in the fight for equal pay with their respective federations. In February, the Olympic champions threatened to strike after their federation prolonged a pay dispute.
What’s more, several teams are fighting for equity among their own squads as well. In France, multiple players resigned from the national team in an effort to oust their coach—and won. In Spain, 15 players resigned to protest their coach and push for better working conditions. The players lost the fight and the coach, Jorge Vilda, is still in charge of the national team. Some of those players are planning to return for the 2023 World Cup, while others have chosen to sit it out.
9. Activism for “social causes” will be permitted this year.
At the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, FIFA prevented several European men’s teams from wearing armbands with a rainbow heart to support the OneLove campaign, which promotes inclusion and opposes discrimination. Now, a year later, the sport’s governing body will allow a variety of different armbands to be worn by team captains at the 2023 Women’s World Cup—as long as they are one of eight designs approved by FIFA, The Athletic reports.
The players can choose to wear an armband with designs that represent eight different “social causes” tied to various human rights organizations, like inclusion (in partnership with UN Human Rights) and gender equality (in partnership with UN Women) among other messages, according to CNN.
10. There are several ways to watch the Women’s World Cup, so you don’t have to miss any of the action.
If you’re stateside, you can watch the English-language broadcast on Fox; Telemundo has the Spanish-language rights. Both networks are scheduled to show all 64 games live, and viewers will be able to watch the action on their streaming platforms as well. For instance, if you’re looking to stream, you can get the channel on FOX Sports.com and the FOX Sports App. You can also watch on any streaming service that carries FOX and FS1.
Just note as we mentioned above, timing might be kind of tricky So get ready to push back your bedtime to enjoy some late-night soccer—or set your alarm a little extra early!