Concacaf Announces New Women’s Competitions, Raise Level of Women’s Football in Region
by Bart Keeler
Concacaf announced Thursday that it will launch two new regional women’s competitions starting summer 2022. The Concacaf W Championship and W Gold Cup will take place in even-year summers with the goal to increase the number of competitive matches for women’s teams in the region.
Previously, the confederation hosted two tournaments: one for Women’s World Cup Qualifying and one for Olympic Qualifying. This move will combine qualifying for the two international competitions and add the Gold Cup tournament, which will mimic the men’s competition.
As it did with revamps to its men’s competitions, Concacaf is giving each team more official matches to help increase the quality of play in the region. This strategy paid off on the men’s side as both the U.S. and Mexico are now in the top 10 of the FIFA World Rankings. These two tournaments are also part of Concacaf’s relatively new directive to prioritize women’s football in North American, Central America and the Caribbean.
Karina LeBlanc, Concacaf’s Head of Women’s Football (and former Canadian international), said, “We are providing a platform for women footballers in Concacaf to thrive, and for women and girls throughout the region to support their national teams with pride.”
A Combined Qualification Tournament
The new Concacaf W Championship will kick off the summer of 2022 and serve as qualifying for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup and the 2024 Olympics. Concacaf sends four teams and two teams, respectively.
It will feature eight teams in two groups, with the top two teams in each group advancing to the knockouts. Those four teams will go to Australia-New Zealand 2023. Under the old format, the winners of each semifinal of the tournaments would qualify directly for the Women’s World Cup or Olympics. Now, only the champion will earn an automatic place in the Olympic tournament. The runners-up and third-place finishers will play in a playoff to determine the second team to qualify for Paris 2024.
This doesn’t change much for the U.S. women’s national soccer team. It and Canada will automatically qualify for the tournament as the two highest-ranked teams. However, this new format does give more competitive matches to the lower-ranked teams.
The New Concacaf W Qualifiers
All teams not the USWNT and Canada will play a round of qualifiers. The 30 remaining women’s national teams were drawn into six groups of five, with six seeded teams. Group play will be only four matches, two home and two away for each team.
Qualifiers begin in November and will wrap up in April 2022. The winner of each group will make the Concacaf W Championship.
The Concacaf W Gold Cup
A long time coming, Concacaf will officially commission a standalone confederation championship for women. Although the “Women’s Gold Cup” has been used before, but only the 2000 tournament was played without qualification on the line.
This “W Gold Cup” will be the largest women’s tournament in the region ever, with 12 teams competing (eight Concacaf teams and four invited teams). Teams will qualify through a qualification process called “Road to the W Gold Cup,” again increasing competitive matches for regional teams.
According to the release, after these two tournaments and their qualifiers, “teams from the region will have competed in a minimum of 195 official matches, which represents 118% increase in comparison to the previous four-year cycle.” That’s a massive boost to teams that aren’t the U.S. and Canada. However, the USWNT will likely benefit in the long run, as the goal is to improve the overall quality in the region. However, the W Gold Cup will run during the same summer as the Paris 2024 Summer Olympic Games.
Two financial notes from these tournaments: 1) Because the USWNT won’t compete in qualifying for the tournaments, it will still be able to host its annual SheBeleives Cup. 2) Hosting two major tournaments could bring in more money to Concacaf, which is a major aim of the Concacaf W mission.
Concacaf has not announced the host for these tournaments.