The 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup wrapped up earlier this week with USA getting revenge in a big way with a 5-2 victory over the previous champions Japan. Carli Lloyd’s hat-trick in the Final was just one of the few highlights for the USWNT as they were on their way to capturing their first World Cup title in 16 years.
As good as the tournament was, this is a huge accomplishment for FIFA and women’s soccer in general. When FIFA expanded the World Cup draw to from 16 teams in 2011 Germany to now a 24 team tournament, it was a big risk.
Going into this tournament, there were thoughts of having some potential for lopsided games. A handful of teams were making their World Cup debuts and it was curious to see how everything was going to pan out.
In the end, expanding the format of 16 teams to 24 teams was the best thing that FIFA could have done for the Women’s game. For instance, in 2011, a team that would have been projected to finish last in the group, was all of a sudden projected to sneak into the knock out stage.
More importantly, the competition at this years FIFA World Cup was amazing to watch. Despite the tournament favorites, the United States, taking home the title, the majority of the tournament was unpredictable. The fact that England got as far as they did winning the third place game, China advancing to the Quarterfinals and both Brazil and Sweden slipping past and losing in the Round of 16 were very unstable and disappointing losses for both of those two countries.
Personally, I think the extra games in this year’s tournament was crucial for FIFA to grow the game of not just women’s soccer but women’s sports in general. The extra games, created extra opportunities for fans to experience a game live and media outlets around the world that women have a chance to succeed at women’s sports as well.
In the fall of 2014, I had to do a newspaper assignment on the amount of coverage women’s sport got for media attention. My report that can be read below, demonstrated that women’s sport was getting little coverage. However, the fact that FIFA decided to expand the format to 24 teams has decreased the gap between the second tier teams and the third tier teams in women’s soccer. In fact, I believe that the gap between the tier one teams and tier two teams has decrease as well.
In four years’ time when France hosts the Women’s World Cup, it is going to be very interesting to see if the gap can be closed even more.