Once again, the United States claimed the CONCACAF W Championship. A hard-fought win over Canada a week ago secured the Americans’ ninth title in the competition’s 11-year history. The competition launched in 1991, with Canada winning in 1998 and 2010. Now, the CONCACAF W Championship doubles as World Cup and Olympic qualifying for nations in North America and the Caribbean.
Yet, the string of success from the United States tells one story for the area as a whole. CONCACAF must reevaluate how to improve women’s soccer in the region.
The CONCACAF W Championship is not the only major women’s competition of the summer. The success of the Women’s Euros this summer should be a wake-up call for the rest of women’s soccer. CONCACAF needs to improve competition for the USA and Canada, two of the world’s top teams. In doing so, those World Cup contenders continue to improve against developing European sides. The Netherlands, England, Germany and France are just a few examples of teams to experience rapid growth in recent years.
CONCACAF developing women’s soccer
The new iteration of the CONCACAF W Gold Cup in 2024 is a promising step in the right direction. It features twelve teams.
Joining the U.S. as CONCACAF W Championship winners is the winner of a playoff between Canada and Jamaica. Those teams finished second and third, respectively, in the 2022 CONCACAF W Championship. Six other CONCACAF teams qualify through a nations-league format known as the “Road to the CONCACAF W Gold Cup.”
Most importantly of all, the last four teams will be invited guests from other confederations. Significantly, this allows nations such as Jamaica, Costa Rica and Mexico to get crucial competitive fixtures against sides outside the confederation.
What else could CONCACAF look for in improvement?
In addition to this Gold Cup and the CONCACAF W Championship, there are other musings for the confederation. For one, it could reach out to CONMEBOL and organize a joint national team championship. A potential field of 16 or 24 teams could fit in the calendar for both continents.
Both CONCACAF and CONMEBOL can share increased revenue among all members. The USA, Canada and Brazil would dominate at first. However, the influx of more TV revenue and sponsorship dollars can inject new life into the rest of CONCACAF and CONMEBOL.
The two confederations can also discuss the possibility of a joint Nations League. That gives each nation, not just those towards the top, a chance at more competitive games. Further than that, a global FIFA women’s nations league would develop the world of women’s soccer. Yet, that may to far-fetched to be feasible.
UEFA demonstrated the potential success of the Nations League for the men. Now, it seems to be paying dividends for the women. Perhaps CONCACAF could look to UEFA for more examples to grow the competitiveness of women’s soccer.
The club side of women’s soccer
That extends to the club scene, as well. One thing CONCACAF could consider is mandating that competitors in the men’s Champions League have a women’s team play in the region’s premier club competition. This same principle exists in the CONMEBOL Copa Libertadores. The one hindrance is that some CONCACAF clubs could be cash-strapped if this comes into place. To counteract that, CONCACAF can offer incentives or funding to clubs working with that hypothetical mandate.
Increased funding for Women’s soccer made the Women’s Champions League and the Women’s Euros increasingly competitive. The growth of Women’s soccer in UEFA is rapid with quality improvement across the board. In fact, the most prominent women’s international sides hail from Europe. The lone exception is the current world champions, the United States.
For example, in 2019, the quarterfinalists of the Women’s World Cup were the United States and seven European teams. Usual powerhouses like Brazil, Japan and Canada are competitive, but the European game exhibits continued expansion. UEFA is on track to dominate at future World Cups and Olympic games. A few outsiders are in their path as it stands.
It is in the best interest of CONCACAF to want to have the USA within the top teams in the world. So, they must think outside the box and find different avenues to increase competition in Women’s football in the region and to ensure the quality of the leagues and national teams improve so that they can produce other world powers and bolster the likes of the USA and Canada.
PHOTO: Jaime Lopez/Jam Media/Getty Images
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