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History of the Women's World Cup

By Bella Mendoza

It has been 32 years since the first Women's World Cup took place in China. Since then a lot has changed – women have become an integral part of sports and are fighting tirelessly to obtain the same treatment and respect that men soccer players do. In recent years, there has been a strong shift in women sports, making true equality even closer; “365 million people tuned in to watch the Women’s Euros final last summer, Susie Wolff was recently announced as Managing Director of the F1 Academy,” and there was a record high viewership for the 2023 Women’s March Madness final. It is clear that attitudes are changing, but it has not always been this way.

History of the Women’s World Cup

The first Men’s FIFA World Cup took place in 1930, 61 years before the first official women's World Cup in 1991. Prior to this, women's teams across the world gathered together to have their own tournament without internal recognition of the FIFA label. The first of these games was held in 1970 when the Federazione Internazionale Europea Football Femminile staged their own unofficial tournament in Italy. This was a huge success, with Mexico holding another round of these games in 1971, following the Men’s 1970 World Cup game. This tournament brought a huge crowd, almost tripling the attendance from the year prior. Despite this, FIFA was still reluctant to create a women's tournament taking them twenty years to create the first official Women's World Cup in 1991.

1970 The first Women's World Cup (Unofficial)

The 1991 Women's World Cups created a shift in society sparking national pride around Women's Soccer. This tournament took place in China and had twelve teams compete: Nigeria, China, Japan, Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), Brazil, New Zealand, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Norway, Sweden, and the United States. With a very limited budget, there were several accounts made that the US team had to make “several stopovers to pick up the Swedish and Norwegian teams before the 1991 game, and to drop them off after,” that some players had to wear hand-me down uniforms from the men's teams, and that the women had to all bunk in one room at a bed and breakfast (Times).

Despite these horrid conditions (especially comparing them to the Men’s World Cup the year prior), this tournament was a great success. It had a total of 510,000 viewers and depicted women as strong resilient soccer players. The United States was a particular standout, winning against Norway in the final, enhancing nationalism throughout the whole country. The US Women’s Soccer team would go on and win three more World Cup titles.

1991 US Women's World Cup Victory (Youtube, 2015)

2023 World Cup

The first match of the summer took place on Thursday, July 20th hosted by Australia and New Zealand with thirty-two teams competing for the World Cup title, a striking difference from the twelve teams in 1991.

The United States have one four out of the nine World Cups that have been held and are the frontrunners for this year's tournament. With a stacked team ranging from Megan Rapinoe, who has been on the US team for 17 years, to Alyssa Thompson, who just graduated high school, this team has everyone cheering for them, despite how little they may know about soccer.

Despite the US being the returning champions, this team does have some flaws. Fourteen of the players were World Cup rookies, many of them in their early twenties including eighteen-year old Alyssa Thompson and twenty one year old Trinity Rodman. There will only be nine returning players who have seen the intensity of a World Cup game including Alex Morgan and Kelly O’Hara. By creating tweaks in this year’s roster, US soccer coach Vlatko Andonovski is confident in his team and their ability to win the tournament.

England is another huge contender in this year’s game. Having won last year's European Championship and a victory at Finalissima (a game between the European and South American champions) this year, they will not back down without a fight. Experts rank them second, at 16.9%, going into the tournament behind the USA. However, their team has also had some unforeseen difficulties. Their team captain, Leah Williamson, and all star Beth Mead are unfortunately out with an injury.

Australia and New Zealand are seeing an influx of visitors with the first game being held this Thursday, July 20th followed by a month of games. Tourists will come flocking from across the world hoping to see their team make it to the championship, and eventually become named “the best soccer team in the world”.

The final game will take place on August 20th at 3:00 am PST. I, along with countless others, will be waking up early cheering on the two final teams. Fingers crossed that the USA is in that mix.

2023 Women's World Cup Roster (USA Soccer)

USA Previous Wins:

Brandi Chastine winning the 1999 World Cup in penalty kicks in Pasadena, CA. (The Guardian)

2015 US Women’s World Cup Winners (NYT)

2019 US Women's World Cup Winners (NYT)


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