Women’s World Cup Kicks Off

Switzerland plays The Netherlands in a Women’s World Cup qualifier, 2018

This month in Paris, 552 women soccer players representing 24 countries kick off the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup—and records are expected to shatter. According to FIFA, ticket sales have soared. The opening match, two semifinals, and the final are sold out—all tickets bought within 48 hours of going on sale. Meanwhile, television executives expect to surpass the previous record of 750 million viewers—possibly up to 1 billion viewers worldwide.

There’s a lot of action to watch. In four weeks over 52 games, teams from Europe, Asia, Africa, South America, North America and the Caribbean, and Oceania will play round-robin style in six groups. The top two teams from each group advance, as do the top four of all third-place teams. From there, only the winning team advances to the next round.

Who’s favored to win? The U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) is the world’s top-ranked team with three Women’s World Cup titles. However, Japan has reached the past two finals, Germany has always had a strong team, and The Netherlands won the last European Championship. Still, host country France is a strong favorite to take the trophy and $30 million—double the prize money of the 2015 tournament.

Watch for stellar play from the world’s best women players. The U.S. team has two powerhouses: Carli Lloyd, who pulled off a 13-minute hat-trick in the 2015 World Cup final, and Alex Morgan. Meanwhile, striker Vivianne Miedema of The Netherlands is considered the best in the world, as is teammate midfielder Lieke Martens. Australia’s captain, Sam Kerr, is another strong player to watch.

Women’s World Cup soccer (or “football,” depending on where you live in the world) has come a long way since its debut in 1991 as the FIFA World Championship for Women’s Football for the M&M’s Cup. Before then, women played mostly in unofficial international tournaments. Over the last three decades, women’s teams have broken attendance and television viewing records while inspiring generations of young girls to play the beautiful sport.

Image credit: Melanie Duchene/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

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