CONCACAF revamps women's qualifying for 2023 World Cup and 2024 Olympics – ESPN
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A revamped CONCACAF W Championship and a Women’s Gold Cup are the two new women’s soccer competitions CONCACAF will add to increase the frequency of matches for teams throughout the confederation.
The W Championship, to be held in 2022, will be a qualifier for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup and the 2024 Olympics.
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CONCACAF anticipates that the region will have competed in a minimum of 195 official matches during the upcoming cycle, which represents 118% increase in comparison to the previous four-year cycle.
“This is a seismic development for our women’s national team competitions and will transform the women’s game in Concacaf,” CONCACAF president and FIFA vice president Victor Montagliani said.
“When we launched our Concacaf W strategy in 2019 we committed to providing more opportunities for all member associations. This new ecosystem wholeheartedly delivers on that and the inclusion of an inaugural Concacaf W Gold Cup as a central part it is a truly exciting step in our journey to further elevate women’s football. I can’t wait to see these matches and new competitions unfold on the pitch and hope they inspire future generations of women and girls to play and develop a passion for the game.”
The W Championship now effectively combines the qualifying process for both the World Cup and the Olympics. Part of the impetus for this was so that there would be something at stake in the final, as opposed to having a final with two teams already qualified.
“When we looked at it, we had two competitions and talking to a lot of the players…[the competitions] almost were in a silo,” Montagliani added during a zoom call with reporters.
“There was very little lead into them. There was not a lot of games, and they just seemed like they were just tournaments, there was no real linkage, no strategy. And so we thought that a we needed another tournament, a real tournament.
“Now when you go to the W Championship, the way it was structured where the teams that got to the final, yeah, it was a final but it didn’t really mean anything because you already qualified to the World Cup.
“Now this final means a lot because you’ve qualified for the World Cup, but guess what? If you win it, you qualify for the Olympics. So it gives even more bite to our W Championship.”
The first phase of this new women’s national team cycle begins with the FIFA Women’s match windows of November 2021 and April 2022, and will serve as the preliminary round of the 2022 CONCACAF W Championship. This phase will include 30 CONCACAF nations ranked three and below in the FIFA women’s ranking as of July 2021, will be divided into six groups of five.
After group stage play, where each nation will play two matches at home and two matches away, the top finisher in each of the groups will advance to the CONCACAF W Championship, joining the top two ranked CONCACAF nations (U.S. and Canada) who receive a bye straight to the W Championship.
The draw for the CONCACAF W Qualifiers takes place on Saturday, Aug. 21 at 3 pm ET.
“These new competitions will be game-changing for women’s football in CONCACAF. I am so excited for the draw this weekend and the first qualification matches for 30 of our women’s national teams in November this year,” said CONCACAF head of women’s football, Karina LeBlanc.
“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.”
Once the qualifiers are complete, the finals of the CONCACAF W Championships will take place later in 2022. The eight participating nations, including the USA and Canada, and the six Concacaf W Qualifiers group winners, will be divided into two groups of four teams.
After group stage play, the top two finishers in each group will qualify for the competition’s semifinals and guarantee their place in the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023. Additionally, both group stage third place finishers will advance to a FIFA Women’s World Cup intercontinental playoff.
The knockout stage of the W Championship (semifinals, third-place match and final) will be played in a single match direct elimination format.
At the conclusion of the event, the winning nation will guarantee its place in the 2024 Paris Summer Olympic Games women’s football tournament and the 2024 CONCACAF W Gold Cup. The runner-up and the third place will progress to a CONCACAF Olympic play-in series to be played in September of 2023. The winner of the play-in will also guarantee their place in Paris and the W Gold Cup.
Following the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, qualifying for the CONCACAF W Gold cup will begin.
A total of 33 teams, not including the two who will compete at the 2024 Summer Olympics, will be split into groups within three leagues according to their CONCACAF women’s ranking as follows: League A: Top-nine ranked nations divided into three groups of three teams; League B: Next 12 best-ranked teams divided into three groups of four teams.
Followed by League C: Lowest-ranked 12 teams divided into three groups of four teams.
After home and away group stage play, during the FIFA women’s match windows of September, October and November 2023, the top finishers in each of the League A groups will qualify for the 2024 CONCACAF W Gold Cup group stage.
The second-place finishers in each of the League A groups and the first-place finishers in each of the League B groups will advance to a W Gold Cup play-in, scheduled for April of 2023. The three play-in winners will also qualify for the CONCACAF W Gold Cup group stage.
The final phase of the CONCACAF W Gold Cup will take place in the summer of 2024 and will consist of 12 teams split into three groups of four.
The 12 participating nations will be determined as follows: Winner of the 2022 CONCACAF W Championship; winner of the CONCACAF Olympic play-in; three League A group winners of the rRoad to CONCACAF W Gold Cup; three winners of the CONCACAF W Gold Cup play-in; four guest nations from other confederations.
For the group stage, the 12 teams will be split into three groups of four teams each.
After single round-robin play, the group winners, runners-up and the two best third-place finishers will qualify for the knockout stage which will consist of quarterfinals, semifinals and a final.