Australia, New Zealand to co-host 2023 women's FIFA World Cup
Tournament to feature expanded format; pro league coming to Italy by 2022
Australia and New Zealand will co-host the 2023 Women's World Cup.
The island neighbours beat Colombia 22-13 on Thursday in a vote by the FIFA Council.
The expanded 32-team tournament — eight more than the 2019 edition in France — is expected to open in July 2023.
The winning bid proposed 12 cities with seven in Australia and five in New Zealand. It includes the main stadium used for the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
After a successful World Cup last year, FIFA wants the next women's tournament to further establish its independence from the men, and show it is commercially attractive.
At least $100 million US is expected to be paid by the governing body in 2023 — for prize money, team preparation costs and to clubs releasing players for the tournament — FIFA president Gianni Infantino pledged last year in France.
Colombia's bid was rated a high-risk commercial option in an evaluation of the candidates published this month. Australia and New Zealand's bid was rated low-risk and scored 4.1 points out of a maximum 5. Colombia scored 2.8.
A third candidate, Japan, withdrew on Monday. That gave fellow Asian Football Confederation member Australia a clearer run. New Zealand is part of the smaller Oceania continental group.
Congratulations <a href="https://twitter.com/FFA?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@FFA</a> & <a href="https://twitter.com/NZ_Football?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NZ_Football</a>! <br>YOU will host the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/FIFAWWC?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#FIFAWWC</a> 2023. <br><br>¡Felicitaciones, <a href="https://twitter.com/FFA?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@FFA</a> y <a href="https://twitter.com/NZ_Football?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NZ_Football</a>!<br>Serán ANFITRIONAS de la <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/FIFAWWC?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#FIFAWWC</a> 2023. <a href="https://t.co/PaL1PR6HyO">pic.twitter.com/PaL1PR6HyO</a>—@FIFAWWC
The 2023 tournament will be the first time a World Cup for men or women will be shared across two continental bodies, and the first co-hosted women's edition.
Colombia's bid was supported by most of the nine voters from European soccer body UEFA.
Launched in 1991, the Women's World Cup has never been hosted in South America.
Both Australia, the No. 7-ranked team in women's soccer, and No. 23 New Zealand will qualify automatically for the tournament.
Colombia is currently ranked No. 25 and was the only one of the three bidders not to qualify for the 2019 edition.
Women's soccer to be professional in Italy by 2022
The Italian Football Federation aims to make the women's game professional in the country by 2022, describing the move as "undelayable."
Female players are still considered amateurs by Italian law and therefore are not permitted to earn more than $33,000 US per year before taxes.
Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora has previously said he supports changing the 1981 law and making the women's league professional.
"President [Gabriel] Gravina proposed, and the council unanimously agreed, the launch of a gradual project aimed at recognizing professionalism, starting from the 2022-23 season," the FIGC said in a statement after a meeting on Thursday.
"This prospect ... has now become undelayable on the theme of equal dignity."
The FIGC said Spadafora was laying the groundwork to change the law.
The FIGC also decided to award the Women's Serie A title to Juventus after cancelling the rest of the league this month.
Juventus had a nine-point advantage over second-placed Fiorentina with six matches remaining, although Fiorentina had played a match less. It is Juve's third successive league title.
Juventus president Andrea Agnelli thanked the federation.
"Our path of women's football has shown on the field that we're deserving of this title; the third in three years," Agnelli said.
"The road to bringing women's football in Italy to the level of the greats of Europe and the world is still very long. We will have to be able, all together, to build the right organizational and regulatory architecture to guarantee the next steps of growth."