The Women’s World Cup is starting a little later this year. What, in recent editions, has been a June-July tournament has been moved to a late July-August window. While not as dramatic as the 2022 World Cup moving to December, it’s still a noteworthy shift on the calendar. So why did the 2023 Women’s World Cup get bumped from June? Let’s take a look.

A climate first for the Women’s tournament

The year 2023 marks the first time that the Women’s World Cup is being held in the southern hemisphere. It’s easy to forget, from the American and/or Euro-centric club perspective, that it’s currently winter in Australia and New Zealand.

That might sound pleasant from a playing conditions standpoint. For example, temperatures usually range from the mid 40°s F to mid 60°s F in Sydney at this time of year. But it also comes with a drawback – daylight. There’s less sunshine during the winter, and as a result, a lot of games take place under stadium floodlights. The shortest days of the year are in late June / early July, so shifting things a month later has helped with the daylight situation a little. Still, the 2023 Final takes place at 8:00 PM local time in Sydney, long after the sun has set in eastern Australia.

The changing club landscape

While the Women’s World Cup usually starts in June, it hasn’t always been a summer event. In fact, three of the first five tournaments were played in early to mid fall:

TournamentDate Range
China 1991November 11 – November 30
Sweden 1995June 5 – June 18
USA 1999June 19 – July 10
USA 2003September 20 – October 12
China 2007September 10 – September 30
Germany 2011June 26 – July 17
Canada 2015June 6 – July 5
France 2019June 7 – July 7
Australia-New Zealand 2023July 20 – August 20

These dates have a lot to do with the state of the women’s professional club game.

Prior to 2001, no fully professional women’s league existed anywhere in the world. As such, there was little need to schedule the World Cup around league seasons. The eight-team Women’s United Soccer Association league was founded after the success of the 1999 World Cup, becoming the first truly women’s professional soccer league. That league started its season in early April, and ended in late August.

So, with that in mind, it’s easy to see why the 2003 World Cup was moved to after the conclusion of the WUSA season, in September. Sadly, the WUSA suspended operations just days before the start of the 2003 World Cup. However, the World Cup spot on the calendar stuck around for the 2007 tournament.

A new league in the USA, Women’s Professional Soccer, started in 2009. It also played in the summer, but from 2011 onwards, the Women’s World Cup moved to the traditional summer slot.

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A different game

Indeed, as the women’s game has expanded and improved worldwide, more consideration has been given to the players and clubs beyond the shores of the USA. This is especially telling this year. More international players are coming from the big names of European soccer. FC Barcelona. Chelsea. Arsenal. Wolfsburg. Roma. As these clubs and associated competitions grow in importance, the international game must evolve to accommodate them.

Let’s look at four of Europe’s biggest women’s leagues and the dates their seasons ended this year:

LeagueSeason End Date
FA Women’s Super League (ENG)May 27
Frauen-Bundesliga (GER)May 29
Serie A Femminile (ITA)May 28
Liga F (ESP)May 21

If the World Cup this year kicked off when it did in 2019 (June 7), that would have given European-based players only 1-2 weeks to prepare. Or it would have forced them to leave their clubs at a key point in the season. Add in the extreme travel to Australia and New Zealand, and it’s not a good mix.

An apparent agreement between the national sides and prominent European clubs to not release players before June 23 likely had something to do with the new time slot.

Of course, the National Women’s Soccer League in the US does not enjoy the luxury of a summer offseason. The large geographical footprint of the league, and extreme variance in climates for its clubs, forces the league to play during the American summer. And thus, through the World Cup. Notably, the USL Super League has plans to become the second D1 women’s league in the USA. And that league plays from Fall-Spring, avoiding the summer conflict with the World Cup.

Looking ahead

Overall, the main reasons behind the Women’s World Cup moving out of June are a positive. The expansion and growth of the women’s club game is extremely encouraging for the sport. Increased attendance and interest in the club game is far more important for the overall health of the sport than an international tournament that lasts a few weeks every four years. So shifting the World Cup to accommodate makes sense.

It’s likely that the 2027 World Cup, possibly hosted in the United States and Mexico, slots in to a similar space on the calendar. We’ll know sometime next year when the host(s) of the tournament are selected.

Guide to World Cup 2023

Here are some resources to help you get the most out of the biggest event in women's soccer!
Schedule: All the info on where and when to watch every game
TV Coverage: How to watch the games on TV
World Cup Bracket: Map out the entire tournament, from the groups to the final