Our FIFA Women’s World Cup beginner’s guide explains how the world’s most important women’s soccer competition works. For example, you’ll find the info on where you can watch games on US TV and streaming.

Just like on the men’s side, the Women’s World Cup is considered to be the highest level of the game.

The World Cup takes place every four years. A host nation (or nations) are joined by the best international teams in the world to determine the world champion. Dramatic games, iconic moments, and lasting images emerge from each edition of the tournament.

The first official Women’s World Cup was held in China in 1991. Four nations have won the title over the eight editions held so far.

FIFA Women’s World Cup beginner’s guide

Format

Only a select number of elite teams make the World Cup. Nations from each of the six continental confederations must first qualify for the tournament. The host nation(s) for each tournament automatically qualifies.

UEFA (Europe), CONMEBOL (Central America), CONCACAF (South America), CAF (Africa), AFC (Asia) and OFC (Oceania) all hold qualifying events to determine which teams make it to the tournament proper.

Once there, the 32 teams are split into eight groups of four. As of 2023, the Women’s World Cup uses the identical 32-team format the men’s tournament used from 1998-2022. Each team plays the other three teams from its own group once, with the top two from each group advancing to the knockout stage.

The knockout rounds are a single elimination, 4-round bracket. The tournament culminates with a 3rd place match (between the losers of the two semifinal games), and the final.

Knockout games that are tied at the end of 90 minutes move to extra time. This is two complete 15-minute periods of play. If, at the end of extra time, the match is still tied, penalty kicks will decide the winner. PKs are a minimum of five rounds of kicks from the penalty spot. If no team is ahead after five rounds, sudden death begins until one team scores and the other does not. One World Cup Final has been decided in extra time, while two have gone to penalty kicks.

History

The United States have been the dominant side in the history of the World Cup. The USWNT won the inaugural 1991 event, and have gone on to win three more, including the last two (2015, 2019). The USA has placed third or better in every edition of the World Cup to date. Norway, topple the honors in 1995, Germany won back-to-back titles in 2003 and 2007, and Japan knocked off the USA in 2011. These are the only four nations to have won the tournament.

China and the USA have each hosted the tournament twice. However, it was Canada 2015 that so far drew the highest total attendance of any Women’s World Cup.

Notable achievements

The top goalscorer in Women’s World Cup history is Brazil’s Marta, who has 17 goals over her five World Cup appearances. She was the first player to ever score at five World Cups, an accomplishment later matched by Christine Sinclair and Cristiano Ronaldo. Marta could make it an unprecedented six if she scores in the 2023 World Cup.

Abby Wambach of the US and Germany’s Birgit Prinz aren’t far behind on the all time goal list, with 14 goals each.

The USA have the most titles with four, followed by Germany’s two and Norway and Japan’s one apiece.

How to watch

If you’re in the USA, you can watch the Women’s World Cup in a couple of places.

Currently FOX Sports (FOX, FS1) holds the English-language rights, while Telemundo Deportes (Telemundo, Universo, Peacock) is where to find Spanish coverage.

Fubo is a solid option to watch the tournament, as the service carries the full array of both FOX and Telemundo networks.

Due to the location of the tournament in Australia and New Zealand, for 2023 viewers in the USA will have to get up early (or stay up late) to catch most of the live action.

Check out our FIFA Women’s World Cup TV schedule page for complete listings of all the games.

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Beginner's guide to Women's World Cup

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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