With the FIFA Women's World Cup completed, fans will now start thinking about the next tournament, to be staged in Canada in 2015.

In four years, the World Cup field will expand to 24 teams with eight more teams scheduled to compete on Canadian soil.

FIFA, soccer's world governing body, announced its plans for the expansion in the build-up to this year's competition in Germany, and it was met with overwhelming scepticism. Even with an improved standard of play and competitiveness at this World Cup compared to the 2007 tournament, many critics believe there is still a genuine lack of depth in the women's game to merit such an ambitious expansion.

But CBC Sports soccer analyst Clare Rustad, a former defender who played for Canada at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, thinks the "rate of progress in women's soccer right now is huge" that it's the perfect time to expand the field.

"Judging by the progression from 2007, if that rate of growth continues between now and the next World Cup, I can't see any reason why at least some of the eight new teams wouldn't be competitive," Rustad told CBCSports.ca.

"If you looked at the 2003 World Cup, the standard of play wasn't as good as it was in 2007, and it wasn't as good in 2007 as it is now. It's on a steady incline, which is fantastic. It's exciting to see."

Globe and Mail sports reporter Stephen Brunt agrees.

"Before this tournament it seemed like a crazy leap to me to go from 16 to 24 teams. I thought that was wildly ambitious. I don't think it's as far-fetched now as when the tournament started, because this is as a tightly bunched 16-team field as you can have," opined Brunt.

"I'm sure there will be teams from the eight who won't measure up against the U.S. or Brazil, but I don't think it's going to be as big a gulf as many seem to think."

Rustad concedes that adding eight more teams to the competition would "drop the standard of play a little bit." But she also feels it's important for the long-term health of the sport and the tournament, as it will help to further the development of emerging soccer nations.

"If you give eight more teams a shot [at playing in the World Cup], that gives eight more teams the experience of playing in the biggest tournament in the world, [and] it gives them the experience of all the friendlies, training camps and preparation games that they will get leading up to the World Cup," Rustad explained.

"That's not to say we'll have a brand new World Cup winner emerge out of those eight new teams, but at least there will be an attempt to encourage eight more women's programs and give eight more teams a shot at developing further."

The key to expansion while maintaining a high standard of play, according to Rustad, is picking eight nations from Europe, Asia, South America and Africa — regions that she feels have great depth — instead of adding more teams from North America and other weak soccer confederations.

Maintaining a geographic balance to the tournament can't be the guiding principle for FIFA.

"There are definitely some confederations that aren't very strong, CONCACAF [North America] being one of them. Right now, the top three teams in CONCACAF were at this tournament and after that the drop off in quality is very steep," Rustad said. "In Oceania, New Zealand was here and the drop off after that is extremely steep.

But why not take a more cautious approach and wait until 2019 to expand to 24 teams?

Rustad argues that would stunt the amazing progress women's soccer has made.

"I think that would slow the progression because you are preventing eight teams from four years of more high level development, because they wouldn't be preparing for the 2015 World Cup," Rustad offered.

"I don't think adding eight teams is going to be as detrimental to the level of play as lot of people are making it out to be. FIFA is not going to be adding eight recreation-level teams to the World Cup."

Rustad added: "The U.S. [two-time World Cup champions] had to play off against Italy just to get into this tournament and they barely won. The 61st-ranked team in the world [Equatorial Guinea] debuted at this tournament and pushed the likes of Norway. So it's not like the lower ranked teams are going to be the death of the Women's World Cup."