FIFA’s press release after the FIFA Council Meeting that was held during the men’s World Cup in Qatar announced that the “creation of a new FIFA Women’s Club World Cup” had been endorsed, something that has been notably absent from FIFA’s portfolio of competitions. While this is ostensibly good news for fans of women’s club soccer however, the statement is notably short on details. It does not provide a time frame for setting up the competition, which unfortunately may give FIFA and the continental confederations an excuse to delay doing the hard work that will undoubtedly be needed to get the framework in place to hold the competition.
A big issue will be simply how many teams will be involved. It would be easy to copy the current men’s setup, with one team from each of the six confederations plus the winner of the host nation’s league. FIFA should however look to create something equitable to the men’s setup at the time it goes live so the competitions will be equal. The release touts a 32 team men’s Club World Cup in 2025, so assuming it’s unchanged when the women’s Club World Cup goes live, decisions would have to be made as to how many slots each confederation gets.
The appropriation of slots used for the men’s competition would not work for the women’s because the balance of power is much different in the women’s game. North America, Asia, and Africa have women’s national teams and leagues as good as or better than those in Europe and South America, which are the traditional powers in the men’s game. Getting a fair representation of clubs will be improbable if not impossible on the first iteration, however good-faith efforts should be made to get an idea of how best to give confederation an amount of slots that makes sense.
Unfortunately though, intercontinental competitions are rare for women’s clubs and often severely limited to clubs from the United States, England, Germany, Spain, and France. The Women’s International Champions Cup and The Women’s Cup only began inviting clubs from Japan and México participate in their friendly competitions in 2022. To date, no South American or African clubs have been invited to participate in these high profile friendly tournaments despite CONMEBOL and CAF hosting their own club championships since 2009 and 2020, respectively.
A final unknown is just how confederations that don’t currently have a continental competition will create those competitions or otherwise provide entrants to the Club World Cup. Currently, Concacaf (North America) and OFC (Oceania) don’t have intracontinental competitions, however North America does have the UNCAF Interclub Cup between eight clubs from seven Central American nations. Oceania does not have that same structure however, and it’s most well-known club Wellington Phoenix plays in the Australian W League, which is conducted through the Asian Football Conference, and they are not able to participate in the men’s Club World Cup. Figuring out how to treat them in a way that is equitable both to the Phoenix, the other clubs in the region, and the confederations will be a necessary exercise.
With all of these challenges, it will be a massive undertaking to get a Women’s Club World Cup up and running. It will however be an opportunity for FIFA to finally provide a measure of equality to a women’s tournament. Equal representation and equal prize money should be the bare minimum standards for something this far overdue.