Twenty-four teams will compete at next year’s tournament in France, which will be held from 7 June to 7 July. Across nine host cities, 52 matches will be played to determine the winner.
Who are the favorites? Who are the players to watch? How did Bob Marley’s daughter help Jamaica to the finals? Here is what you need to know about an event billed as the most competitive Women’s World Cup yet.
The favorites – A number of strong contenders
Twenty-three teams have qualified, with France assured a place as host.
As defending champions and world No.1 in FIFA’s rankings, USA is favorite to retain the crown it won in Canada four years ago. Victory would secure a fourth title in eight tournaments and cement the country’s status as the most successful in the competition’s history.
The road to France was a straightforward one for USA, beating Mexico 6-0, Panama 5-0, Trinidad and Tobago 7-0 before thumping Jamaica 6-0 in the semifinals of the CONCACAF Women’s Championship to secure qualification. A 2-0 win over Canada in the final clinched an eighth regional title – no other country has won more than two.
Only four nations have won the tournament since its inception in 1991 and two-time champions Germany are strong contenders once again, bouncing back from 2015’s semifinal defeat to win gold at Rio 2016. But defeat to France and USA at the 2018 SheBelieves Cup has sown seeds of doubt.
France’s women, meanwhile, could follow their male counterparts in 1998 and become world champions on home soil. It would be a first major international trophy for the team which is ranked fourth in the world. Others to keep an eye on would be 2011 champions Japan, England and Brazil.
The first-timers – Reggae Girlz
Jamaica is the first Caribbean team to qualify for women’s football’s biggest event and the Reggae Girlz did so with help from Marley’s daughter, Cedella.
Eight years ago, the Jamaican Football Federation (JFF) cut funding to its women’s team, leaving it unranked in FIFA’s world rankings due to three years of inactivity.
But in 2014, Cedella helped turn the team’s fortunes around, becoming an ambassador and sponsoring the team through the Bob Marley Foundation.
“Big up to Cedella Marley for putting her neck on the line for us,” head coach Hue Menzie said after the Reggae Girlz qualified with victory over Panama on penalties in the Concacaf Women’s Championship third-place playoff.
The three other debutants are: Chile, which secured its spot in France with a brilliant 4-0 win over Argentina in the Copa America Femenina, and Scotland and South Africa.
The players – The greatest ever aims for a prize which has eluded her
USA possess a wealth of talent. Two Americans were on the shortlist for the inaugural Women’s Ballon d’Or – forward Lindsey Horan and midfielder Megan Rapinoe – while great things are expected of 20-year-old forward Mallory Pugh, the sixth youngest goal scorer in her country’s history.
England also had two players who were on the Ballon d’Or shortlist and if the English – ranked third in the world – are to win the tournament for the first time Fran Kirby and Lucy Bronze will have to shine.
Of course, there is Marta, 32. No player has scored more at a Women’s World Cup. The Brazilian, six-time FIFA Women’s Player of the Year and nicknamed by Pele as “Pele in a skirt,” is widely regarded as the greatest female player in history but one trophy has eluded her – the World Cup.
In Dzsenifer Marozsan, Germany has a captain who came third in both Fifa’s Best awards and the inaugural Women’s Ballon d’Or. The playmaker is key to German hopes, scoring one goal and three assists in four qualifiers for France 2019
Another Lyon player to look out for is Amadine Henry, the France captain who has everything with her all-conquering club which won the league and Champions League double last season.
The money – prize fund doubled
USA received $2 million for winning in 2015, which was dwarfed by the $35 million the men’s champions, Germany, took home.
The prize money for 2019 has doubled, with FIFA announcing that the winners will bank $4 million and that the overall prize fund has been raised from $15 million in 2015 to $30 million. The prize money for the 2018 men’s World Cup was $400 million, with winners France taking home $38 million.
The world players’ union FIFPro said the increase for France 2019 was insufficient, saying in a statement that “football remains even further from the goal of equality for all World Cup players regardless of gender.”
The absence of the world’s best player also highlights that there is still much to be done to progress the women’s game.
Ada Hegerberg, winner of the inaugural Women’s Ballon d’Or, took a step back from international duty in 2017 because of frustrations with her country’s football association.
The venues – a final outside the capital
The tournament will take place across nine host cities: Grenoble, Le Havre, Lyon, Montpellier, Nice, Paris, Reims, Rennes and Valenciennes.
The first match will be played in Parc des Princes in Paris on 7 June, while the semifinals and final will be played in Lyon, home of the French women’s champions and Champions League winners Olympique Lyonnais, on 2, 3 and 7 July.
The Mascot - a chicken with passion
Every World Cup needs a mascot and France 2019 has Ettie, a young chicken with, according to FIFA’s website, “a passion for life and football.”
For those who think Ettie looks familiar – she is the daughter of Footix, the official mascot from the 1998 FIFA Men’s World Cup in France.
“Her strong family connection to the Gallic rooster, who is still a popular national French symbol, makes her a fitting choice as the Official Mascot for the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019,” continues the statement on FIFA’s site.