The rising stature of the FIFA Women's World Cup and women's football

With the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup slated to take place from 7th June to 7th July, there’s no denying that the women’s game has come a long way. From 12 teams in the inaugural 1991 edition to 24 in the current one, women’s football has been steadily getting traction down the years.

The 1991 tournament in China pushed the women’s game into the mainstream. With an average crowd of around 20,000 per match, women’s football gained attention as the USA stormed to win the first ever Women’s World Cup. Legends like Michelle Akers, Mia Hamm, Carin Jennings and Linda Mohr got their start through the 1991 Women’s World Cup.

Following Norway’s win in the 1995 World Cup, the watershed moment for the women’s game came in 1999. The USA had successfully hosted the 1994 FIFA World Cup and were now hosting the women’s edition of the same. With major attention on the home nation, the tournament drew huge crowds. The pool of participating teams also increased to 16 from 12 in the previous tournaments. 

The 1999 World Cup final, featuring the US against China, remains the highlight of the competition. With a record crowd of over 90000 (the most for a women’s sport), the host nation defeated China on penalties. Brandi Chastain’s winning penalty and subsequent celebration became an iconic image that spurred on the women’s game. The 1999 World Cup still remains the only one in which the title has been won by the host nation.

The 2003 World Cup, however, was not up to the same mark due to external factors. Originally supposed to be held in China, the tournament was shifted to the USA at the last minute due to the SARS outbreak in China. The change also meant that the tournament had to be shifted to September-October rather than the usual June-July tournament.

Due to the above-mentioned factors, the scheduling was very tight with double-headers happening frequently. Still, the 2003 World Cup did give us a footballing first as Germany became the first nation to win both the men’s and women’s FIFA World Cup.

In recent years, the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada achieved new highs for the women’s game as the tournament pool increased from 16 to 24 teams. The USA became the first nation to win three Women’s World Cup titles.

The final of the same tournament showed that women’s football had increased its popularity, charting in a TV audience of over 750 million. It remains the most-watched football game, men or women, in American history.

The women’s game, as exemplified by the FIFA Women’s World Cup, is a story of growth. While it is yet to achieve the same attention as the men’s game but there’s no denying that women’s football is on the rise. With global stars like Alex Morgan, Ada Hegerberg, Marta Torrejon, there’s no doubt that the 2019 World Cup will be an even bigger affair.

One of the nations that defines the growth of the women’s game is Spain. Whereas the men’s team defined its legacy with a World Cup and two Euro titles during 2008 to 2012, the women’s team has just started its path to prominence.

The Spain National Women’s Team made its World Cup debut in 2015 and have also qualified for the 2019 edition. Banking on the talents of Torrejon and record goal-scorer Veronica Boquette, Spain is expected to be a force to reckon with at the competition. The 1997 Women’s Euro semi-finalists will be a team to watch in their second appearance at the World Cup, which clearly will help in increasing the popularity of the women’s game.

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