The Week in Women's Football: UCL Round 2; Tess Tamplin interview; New USL franchises
The Week in Women's Football: UCL Round 2; Tess Tamplin interview; New USL franchises
This week, we look at the UEFA Women's Champions League (WCL) twelve Round 2 home and away legs over the past two weeks, including an interview with Tess Tamplin—the 20-year-old former Newcastle Jet wing-back who joined Servette of Geneva this summer and played against Glasgow City.
We also look at three new W-League franchises joining the USL loop for 2022—a restart of the long running North American summer league that folded after the 2015 season. Another summer semi-professional league in North America—the UWS—announced some interesting team awards following the season. We also try to de-triangulate the new CONCACAF women's national teams competitions recently announced for the next WWC and Olympic Games cycles.
UEFA Women's Champions League Round 2 Matches
The first legs were held on August 31 and September 1, with the second legs on September 8 and 9 as the following ties were determined by UEFA in the draw on August 23.
Sparta Praha (CZE) vs. Køge (DEN) (0-1, 0-2; 0-3 on aggregate)
Debutants Koge took a 1-0 lead back home from Prague on September 1 with a goal in the 73rd minute by Cornelia Kramer (18), who has been capped by Denmark at the U-17 and U-19 level and played last season with AaB. Kramer scored late in the second game on September 8 as well, as a first half goal by Cecilie Floe Nielsen (19), who is in her first season at the club and has been capped by Denmark at the youth level, gave Koge an advantage that Sparta couldn't pull back. Koge's two wins out of two games thus far in the WCL is significant as they are competing in their first ever Women's Champions League campaign and are through to the Round of 16 (Koge did not have to participate in Round 1 as the Danish Champions as Denmark has an overall high seeding coefficient from UEFA, along with Sweden (Hacken) and the Czech Republic (Sparta Prague).
Osijek (CRO) vs. Breidablik (ISL) (1-1, 0-3; 1-4 on aggregate)
All of the goal scoring in the first leg on September 1 was completed within the first 31 minutes of the match, as Merjema Medic (21), a Bosnia and Herzegovina full international who transferred in June from ZNK Split in Croatia and won four league crowns at home with SFK 2000 Sarajevo, scored in the 31st minute for Osijek. Icelandic international midfielder Selma Magnusdottirr (23), who last played at the full national team level in 2019 and has been with Breidablik for years, opened the scoring seven minutes before.
Breidablik became the first side from Iceland to advance to the WCL Round of 16 with back-to-back early goals in the second leg by Icelandic international defender Hildur Antonsdottir (25)—who is in her sixth season with the side after transferring from Valur—and American import Taylor Ziemer (23) in the 9th and 10th minute, respectively. Iceland international Agla Albertsdottir (22) scored just after the start of the second half—her sixth in four WCL games—for the third goal in the 3-0 win over the Croatian side on September 9. Ziemer joined the club in May after playing at Texas A&M University after two years at the University of Virginia. As an amateur, she played with ADO Den Haag the Netherlands Eredivisie Vrouwen in 2018-19, scoring five times in 21 games.
Vllaznia (ALB) vs Juventus (ITA) (0-2, 01; 0-3 on aggregate)
Juventus took the first leg by a 2-0 score line away on September 1, with 31-year-old Cristiana Grielli—in her fourth season at Juve and a full international with Italy—and Swedish international forward Lina Hurtig (25)—in her second season with Juventus after transferring from Linkoping and who won a Silver Medal with Sweden at this summer's Olympic Games final—scoring in the first half.
A single goal from Czech Republic international forward Andrea Staskova (21)—in her third season at Juve after moving from Sparta Prague—early in the second half of the second leg was all the scoring that Juventus needed to secure their passage over Vllaznia of Albania to make the Round of 16 for the first time in four WCL campaigns, losing in the Round of 32 to Brondby, Barcelona and Lyon in the past three seasons, respectively. For Vllaznia, they had three imports from neighboring Kosovo and three Americans on their side:
GK Anna Buhigas (26) of the U.S., who has been with Sporting de Huelva in Spain since the 2020/21 season and spent time with Real Betis in Spain and Tavagnacco and Hellas Verona in Italy, as well as a short spell with Barcelona of Cyprus. She played at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee and has been an assistant coach at the University of Tampa.
M Gresa Berisha (23) of Kosovo.
M Melissa Garcia (29) of the U.S., who played in Iceland for years.
M Julia Ann Sattler (29) of the U.S. who played at Oregon State University.
F Donjeta Halilaj (21) of Kosovo, a full international, who was formerly with KFF Hajvalia in Kosovo.
F Rresona Ramadani (19) of Kosovo, who has been capped at the U-19 level.
Twente (NED) vs. SL Benfica (POR) (1-1, 0-4; 1-5 on aggregate)
Netherland's Feena Kalma (21) scored her 8th goal of the 2021-22 UEFA WCL season in the 41st minute at home on August 31, tying the match for Twente after Benfica midfielder Beatriz Cameirao (20) of Portugal—a U-17, U-19 and full international, who won a debut cap against the U.S. in a 1-0 friendly defeat in June and has won league titles at the club during the last two seasons—scored in the 18th minute. Neither team scored in the second half. UEFA has discarded the over 50-year-old away goals rule for this season in both their women's and men's continental competitions, which had counted away goals as double in the case of a tie. Now, if the teams are tied at the end of the second match, for instance in Portugal (or anywhere in the competition), there will be a 30 minute overtime period followed by penalty kicks if needed, whereas in the past—Benfica would advance on the away goals rule in the event of a 0-0 tied or 1-0 loss in the second leg.
In the second leg on September 9, Canadian Cloe Lacasse (28)—in her third year with Benfica after many seasons playing in Iceland with IBV where she scored 54 goals in 79 games and in college at the University of Iowa—scored the winner just before the end of the first half to send the Portuguese champions to the Round of 16, surpassing their debut Round of 32 appearance in 2020-21 in which, after winning two games against PAOK of Greece 3-1 in the first Qualifying Round and then Anderlecht of Belgium 2-1 in the Second Qualifying Round, they fell to Chelsea 8-0 on aggregate over two legs. Lacasse added two goals in the second half to end with a hat-trick while Brazil's U-20 international forward Nycole Raysla (21) scored once. Raysla transferred ahead of the 2020-21 season from Minas ICESP in the capital city of Brasilia to the Portuguese side.
Apollon LFC (CYP) vs. WFC Kharkiv (UKR) (1-2, 1-3; aggregate 2-5)
Kharkiv of the Ukraine scored twice at Apollon in a 2-1 first leg win on August 31. American-born Cypriot international forward Krystyna Freda deadlocked the match at 1-1 in the 29th minute, after Ukrainian international forward Olha Ovdiychuk (27) opened the scoring in the 11th minute. Olha Boychenko (32), also a Ukrainian international forward—who has played primarily in Russia with Zvezda Perm for many years—scored the winning goal for Kharkiv in the 88th minute. In the second leg on September 9, Boychecko and Ovdiychuk (2 goals) again led the scoring for Kharkiv in their 3-1 victory to advance to the Round of 16 for the first time ever, (5-2) on aggregate.
Servette FC Chênois (SUI) vs Glasgow City (SCO) (1-1, 2-1; aggregate 3-2)
The two sides each scored a goal in the first 25 minutes of the second half in the first leg on September 1, the first coming from Servette's Jade Boho Sayo of Spain (35)—who played for her native Spain at the U-19 level but at the full level for Equatorial Guinea and spent time in England with Reading in 2016 and Bristol City in 2015 (totaling 14 games with four goals)—and then City leveled the match on a stunning first time volley by Republic of Ireland international Clare Shine (26), who has won five league titles with Glasgow City, from a long pass out of midfield, to share the points. Servette attacked from the beginning of the match and finished the game with 11 total shots to only three for Glasgow (3 vs. 2 for shots on goal).
In the second leg on September 8, the Costa Rican international Priscilla Chinchilla scored in the 14th minute to give Glasgow City the advantage. In the space of 7 minutes, Servette swung the match and the tie their way with goals from Boho Sayo (41') and Swiss international forward Sandy Maendly (48'), who previously played in Spain with CF Madrid and won three league titles in Italy with Torres and Verona. Boho Saho scored from an indirect free kick on the six yard line of City's goal box on a rarely seen play after Glasgow had been flagged for an illegal pass back to their goalkeeper within the box. Despite every City player being on the goal line, Boho Saho took a shot from a quick touch high into the goal to again leave the aggregate scores even ahead of the halftime break. Servette is through to the Round of 16 Group Stage in only their second season in the Champions League.
Interview with Servette's new Australian signing Tess Tamplin
Tess Tamplin (20) is an attacking right back who recently signed with Servette from the Newcastle Jets in Australia. In our annual in-depth coverage of the W-League, she has emerged in the past few years as a dynamic defender and attacking winger and definitely been one to watch among young talent in the league. The day after the first leg against Glasgow City on September 1, Tribal.Football.com talked to Tess Tamplin about the game, her move to Switzerland from the Newcastle Jets and her thoughts on playing at the full international level in the future.
Tamplin's European move came about because, initially in 2020 she thought of going to college in America and had an offer from the University of Miami in Florida—as well as strong interest from Louisiana State University—but the inability of her degree to transfer for teaching certification in Australia led her to sign on with a local agency and turn professional; they had an offer to her within two weeks with an Austrian side, but they were not a title chasing side. She explained, "I got an offer [but] I wasn't quite sure on how I felt about it because it wasn't a very well-known club and it wasn't doing the best in Austria….I was kind of on the rocks with them and we let that one fizz out; two or three days after hearing from them, Servette came through with an offer. Two weeks later I was in Switzerland. …We're playing in Champions League which is amazing and something I thought I would never do. Servette is a great club." She signed a one year contract for 2021-22 with an option for a second year. This will preclude her from playing this season at home with her hometown club Newcastle Jets, adding, "The Jets are my family but this is the right move for me at this stage in my life."
She talked about the Servette vs. Glasgow City Women's Champions League Round 2 first leg match [1-1], which she said, "was interesting." She explained further that, "Usually I play more of a defensive role but my coach and staff put me in a higher position, more of a strategic move. It was super exciting to start [the match]. We could have had more [shots] and hopefully in the next game [second leg] we show our potential a lot more. It was an okay result and we can work from the result we got. It was so exciting; we almost had 3,000 people and it was a really good environment."
Tamplin stated that shutting down Glasgow City first year Costa Rican international Priscila Chinchilla, who scored the winner in their Round 1 Final upset of number 1 seed BIIK-Shymkent of Kazakhstan, was a priority, "We flagged her before the game [as one] to keep an eye on and make sure we do everything possible to not give her the ball—she is very talented. I think that's why myself and Amandine 'Mouss' Soulard of France (34—who played for years at Saint-Etienne as well as at Olympique Lyon) as two defenders were placed on her side—so that it was more of a strong battle and I could come back and help Soulard so that she [Chinchilla] wouldn't get the ball as often and I think we did a pretty good job [as she didn't score]; she did not have all that much to work with. Going into the next game without the away goal advantage for them gives us a clean sheet—everything rides on this game. It will be interesting to see what we do but I think we will go in fighting and hopefully get the win [which they ultimately did]."
Tess Tamplin with her new jersey upon signing for reigning Swiss League Champions Servette this summer. (Photo Courtesy Servette CFFC)
Tamplin was born in Australia but is registered with UEFA as a Netherlands national because she holds dual citizenship from her parents. When asked about playing internationally for Australia (having been capped at the youth level) she said, "A lot of players who make the move overseas have had call-ups and caught the eye of the AU staff. Fingers crossed—it would be amazing." When asked about the possibility of playing for the Netherlands, she said, "Either/or would be an amazing opportunity. If both [Australia and the Netherlands] arose at the same time, I have no idea which way I would swing. If the possibility arises, it would definitely be something I would look into." She feels close to both countries, "Netherlands would be incredible and I have heard great things about the coach [Mark Parsons] and he has taken Portland into a great squad and he could be an amazing coach to work under as well."
She discussed the differences in playing between the W-League in Australia and the Swiss league, explaining that, "It's very similar with small differences, maybe just the of play in Newcastle; the whole Swiss league is faster and slightly better than at home, purely from the fact that in trial games we get the opportunity to play Juventus and Montpellier as we did this year, which was incredible and that brings the whole league level up. The style of play [at Servette] is not as much long ball [as at Newcastle]; they like to make triangles and figure whatever is coming to us as a puzzle. Other small things are that the girls like the ball straight to their feet rather than into an area where they can run into the ball [space]." Servette warmed up for their season in friendlies versus four time reigning Italian champions and her fellow Australian head coach Joe Montemurro of Juventus (1-4) on July 31 and Montpellier of France (0-2) on August 7. who finished the French league season in 2020-21 tied for sixth place with Stade de Riems on 30 points, with fellow Australian Mary Fowler (18) scoring five times.
Tess Tamplin has continued the path of young Australians with international aspirations in moving to Europe to play, a career move that Australian national team coaches were strongly in favor of after the Matilda's surprising Round of 16 defeat at the 2019 WWC. The Swiss league is not typically one that young top quality imports move to, but Servette was an inspired move for Tamplin, both as reigning league champions and in their run to the Group Stage of the Champions League, as well as their close proximity to France's top league. Servette in turn has acquired a strong defender who also has been productive in wing attacks in the past with the Jets.
Vålerenga (NOR) vs. Häcken (SWE) (1-3, 2-3; aggregate 3-6)
Hacken, which qualified last year as 2020 Swedish champions Kopparbergs/Goteborg FC before the owners pulled their funding and the women's side was rescued by the Gothenburg regional men's team Hacken, used a first half brace by Filippa Angeldal (24), of this summer's Sweden Olympic Games Final runner-ups, and a second half tally by her fellow international Stina Blackstenius for a 3-1 win in a Scandinavian derby against Valerenga of Norway on September 1. Valerenga had a late consolation goal by second half substitute Danish international Rikke Madsen (24), who is in her third season with the 2020 Toppserien Norwegian League champions.
Blackstenius scored a brace for Hacken in the second leg 3-2 victory on September 9, with Anna Rytting-Kaneryd (24) scoring the third. Rytting-Kaneryd is a full international for Sweden who transferred to Hacken [formerly Goteborg] after the 2020 season from Rosengard. Norwegian international Synne Jensen (25)—who played in Germany with Wolfsburg in 2015-16, mostly on the second side—scored as a second half substitute for Valerenga as did American starting forward Katie Stengel, who moved this season to Norway from the Houston Dash and also played in Germany with Bayern Munich in 2014-15 and briefly in 2015-16 before joining the Washington Spirit.
Levante (ESP) vs. Lyon (FRA) (1-2, 1-2; 2-4 on aggregate).
In the first leg on September 1, all of the scoring in Valencia came in the last 10 minutes as French international Melvine Malard (21) scored in the 80th minute, and then assisted fellow French international Perle Morroni (23)—in her first season with Lyon after transferring from Paris St. Germain—four minutes later. Levante then got on the board through 28-year-old Brazilian international forward Giovanna Crivelari Andselmo (in her first season in Spain after moving from Corinthians in Sao Paulo) two minutes later.
In the second leg at home, Lyon won by the same score 2-1 to take the tie on aggregate 4-2 over Levante on September 9, with all the scoring coming within four minutes around the hour mark, first by French international Amel Majri (60') and then Brazilian-born U.S. international Catarina Macario (63') before Aldana Cometti scored a reply for Levante (64'). Cometti (25) is an Argentinian international defender who played for her nation at the 2019 WWC and is in her second season with Levante, after two with Seville following a year in Colombia with Atletico Huila.
Arsenal (ENG) vs. Slavia Praha (CZE) (3-0, 4-0; 7-0 on aggregate)
A trio of internationals gave Arsenal a healthy goals advantage heading into the second away leg in Prague after a 3-0 win on August 31. English international Nakita Parris and Scottish international Kim Little (from the penalty spot) gave the Gunners a 2-0 first half lead and then their Netherlands scoring star Vivianna Miedema scored the third goal in the 72nd minute—her second goal in the WCL this season.
In the second leg on September 9, Slavia kept the Gunners scoreless until the hour mark, when Meidema scored a hat trick within 12 minutes and Kim Little added a fourth from the penalty spot. With Manchester City's surprising loss to Real Madrid (see below), the Gunners and Chelsea (who did not have to participate in the qualifying rounds) represent England in the 16 team group stage.
Real Madrid (ESP) vs Manchester City (ENG) (1-1, 1-0; 2-1 on aggregate)
Real Madrid and Manchester City—the latter strong favorites to make the Final next spring in Turin, Italy—played a 1-1 draw in the Spanish capital on August 31. Scottish international midfielder Caroline Weir (26)—in her fourth season with City after moving from Liverpool after the 2017-18 season—scored just after half-time, but Kenti Robles (Mexico/Spain) scored a late goal in injury time to give Real a lifeline heading into the second leg. There was all to play for as the two sides essentially started the second leg after the dissolution of the away goals rule for this season (see above). Robles transferred from fellow Madrid side Atletico following the 2019-20 season and has been capped by Mexico on over 75 occasions. She also has Spanish citizenship as she has been playing in Spain since she was 14, after some time spent in the Dominican Republic.
Claudia Zornoz (30) of Spain—who joined Real this season after three years at Levante and has a single full national team cap from 2016—scored just before halftime in the second leg on September 8 for a 1-0 win to eliminate the star-studded City side, who just added Spanish international midfielder Vicky Losado, Australian international forward Haley Raso and Jamaican international forward Kadesha Shaw in the offseason to boost their side. City made the semifinals in 2016-17 and 2017-18—losing by a single goal on both occasions to Lyon—and fell last season to Real's rival and reigning European club champions Barcelona in the Quarterfinals. Real Madrid has advanced to the Round of 16 in their debut WCL season.
Wolfsburg (GER) vs Bordeaux (FRA) September 1 (3-2, 2-3; 5-5 on aggregate with Wolfsburg winning on penalties 3-0)
Wolfsburg used goals by Polish international Ewa Pajor (24), who has won four league titles at Wolfsburg since 2016-17 after winning a league title in 2014-15 with Medyk Konin at home, Dutch international Jill Roord (24), who is in her first season at the German side after two years at Arsenal and two at Bayern Munich, and Dominique Janssen [formerly Bloodworth] (26), a fellow 2017 UEFA Women's Euro winner with the Netherlands, who transferred from Arsenal after the 2018-19 season and previously played in Germany with SGS Essen, on September 1 in the first leg in Wolfsburg. The trio of goals offset Bordeaux's two by Dutch national teammate Katja Snoeijs (25), in her second season at Bordeaux after two seasons at home at PSV, and French U-19 and U-17 international forward Mickaella Cardia (21). Cardia is in her second season at Bordeaux after two years with Olympique Marseille.
In the second leg on September 8, both teams came out firing in a wildly entertaining game. Snoeijs scored again for the French league side while Pajor had a double for Wolfsburg, with one in extra time after a 4-4 aggregate tie at the end of 90 minutes. Cardia scored in the 119th minute to take the game to penalty kicks, but a combination of Bordeaux's dreadful penalty kick shots and German international goalkeeper Almuth Schult (who has been with the side for 9 seasons) saved the first two penalty kick attempts while Bordeaux's third banged off of the post in a 3-0 PK win for the German club. Teams at this level need to take a lesson from Canada's national team at the 2020 Olympic Games, when they won the Gold Medal and had practiced penalty kicks for over a month during training. It's not a good sign when the kicker or the goalkeeper's body language denotes a lack of confidence. Bordeaux is a good side and should learn from this season's WCL experience.
Rosengård (SWE) vs. Hoffenheim (GER) (0-3, 3-3; 3-6 on aggregate)
Hoffenheim, debutants in the WCL this season, went to Malmo and shocked veteran side Rosengard of Sweden 3-0 on August 31, with Belgium international Tine De Caigny (24) scoring around the half hour mark and then second half tallies from Austrian international defender Laura Wienroither—who won a league title at home in 2017-18 with St. Polten and has been with Hoffenheim starting in 2018-19—and German midfielder Chantal Hagel (23), who has been loyal to the club since she joined as a teenager and who scored a brace in her first game with the club in 2016-17, when they were in the second tier—a 4-0 win over FFC Frankfurt 11—as an 18-year-old.
In the second leg on September 8, in an odd game on the road, Rosengard fired off 19 shots to only 3 for Hoffenheim, but Hoffenheim's 3 shots were all on frame and they scored from each of them. Australian international goalkeeper Tegan Micah, who played for Melbourne City at home last winner and just recently joined the Swedish side during the summer transfer window from Sandviken in Norway, was in goal for her new club. Rosengard was stymied as Hoffenheim's Laura Wienroither scored an early 8th minute goal, Rosengard scored nine minutes later through their Serbian international forward Jelena Cankovic (26) to tie the game and then Hoffenheim would score again and the Swedish club tie it up again on two occasions. Cankovic has won league titles in Spain with Barcelona, in Sweden with Rosengard, three at home with Spartak Subotica and one in Hungary with Ferencvaros, as well as a second division title with Vaxjo in Sweden in 2017. Hoffenheim's fairy tale season continues in their WCL debut campaign.
More USL W-League Teams join for 2022
Over the summer, we have reported on the developing USL W-League, which intends to relaunch in 2022, after folding in 2015. There have previously been 11 franchises joining the loop (see: The Week in Women's Football: Simon joins Spurs; UWS players abroad; New W-League teams - Tribal Football) but we have three more clubs signing on, taking the league up to 14 teams, with a target of 30 for next season.
Morris Elite of New Jersey has joined the W-League for 2022. Morris Elite SC President Vincenzo Bernardo said, "Morris Elite was created to give players the absolute best platform to develop and grow [a] love for the beautiful game. Our goal is to impact the local communities in many ways, on and off the field. The addition of a W League team is another great step forward for our club but more specifically for our women's program. We are proud to provide playing opportunities for top women's college and high school players in our professional environment." Morris Elite SC was founded in 2016. The club started with five teams in its inaugural year and has since grown to 42 youth teams, all feeding up to a pre-professional men's team that competes in the Metropolitan Division of USL League Two and now a women's team in the W-League, the first in the state.
Wake FC of North Carolina is the second club to join the W League out of North Carolina and will compete in the W League's inaugural season in 2022. Scott Zapko, Vice President of Operations for Wake FC, who was Director of Operations when the Carolina Dynamo added a W League franchise for one season in 2008, said, "We couldn't be more excited to join the USL W League at this point in our club's history. Having managed a USL franchise for the past 20 years and having run teams in the previous W League, we're very familiar with the USL and the professional way they run their leagues. This is a one-of-a-kind opportunity for our local female players." Wake FC was founded in 2012 and is a member of USL League Two, the USL Academy and now the USL W League,
Peachtree City MOBA of Georgia is the third W League franchise in Georgia. Founded in 2013, Peachtree City MOBA was established with the mission of building a best-in-class soccer program for the region. In fostering an environment of love and passion for the sport of soccer, Peachtree City MOBA has continuously offered high quality soccer development for youth players in the region and has mindfully grown its programs to provide a unified platform for players' ages four and up to pursue their soccer dreams. In joining the W League, the club's player-focused programming will now enter the next stage of its overall vision and mission, which centers around providing both male and female players a training environment that will help them achieve their goals of playing at the highest level. As members of the USL Academy, USL League Two and now the USL W League, Peachtree City MOBA has worked to create a full pathway for both its men and women athletes through its partnership with the USL.
UWS 2021 Season Team Awards for Media and Marketing
In an interesting and innovative twist to their annual player awards, the summer United Women's Soccer league (UWS) introduced some new team awards following the 2021 season for social media, game day experience (live and digital) and first year franchises, recognizing organizational excellence—which we hope that other leagues will follow in the future for these important benchmarks.
.Social Media Teams of the Year
UWS teams with the best social media presence and best promotion of women's soccer were:
- Detroit City FC (@DetroitCityFC)
- SA Athenians (@SA_Athenians)
- FC Austin Elite (@FCAustinElite)
- Impact FC (@ImpactFC_UWS)
Live Game Day Experience Teams of the Year
UWS teams that provided the best in-person game day experience for fans and players at the venue were:
- Detroit City FC
- FC Austin Elite
- Rochester Lancers
- New England Mutiny
Digital Game Day Experience Teams of the Year
UWS teams that provided the best digital game day experience for fans and players (live stream, live feed updates, etc.) were:
- Detroit City FC
- FC Buffalo Women
- Corktown AFC
- Rochester Lancers
Rookie Teams of the Year
Expansion teams with the most successful inaugural 2021 season in UWS were:
- St. Louis Scott Gallagher
- FC Buffalo Women
- Chicago Mustangs
- Lone Star Republic
CONCACAF Last Month Announced the First Round Draw for the New CONCACAF W Qualifiers
On August 19, 2021, CONCACAF announced two new major women's summer competitions taking place from 2021 through 2024. The 2022 CONCACAF regional women's championships (W Championship)—which doubles as the 2023 WWC World Cup qualifiers—will include 30 national teams. The six group winners can move on to the Finals of the regional WWC qualifiers and the brand new 2024 CONCACAF W Gold Cup, which will be the equivalent of the region's men's national team championship Nation's League since 2018 (see below). The Groups are as follows:
Group A: Mexico, Puerto Rico, Suriname, Antigua & Barbuda, AnguillaGroup B: Costa Rica, Guatemala, Saint Kitts and Nevis, US Virgin Islands, CuracaoGroup C: Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Bermuda, Grenada, Cayman IslandsGroup D: Panama, El Salvador, Barbados, Belize, ArubaGroup E: Haiti, Cuba, Honduras, Saint Vincent & Grenadines, British Virgin IslandsGroup F: Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana, Nicaragua, Dominica, Turks & Caicos Islands
In the group stage, each nation will play two matches at home and two away. The six group winners will join the USA and Canada (who received a bye as the top ranked teams) in the 2022 CONCACAF W Championship, which will serve as qualifying for both the 2023 Women's World Cup and 2024 Olympic Games Finals. For the Final Group stage, the top two finishers in each group will qualify for the competition's semifinals and guarantee their place in the FIFA Women's World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023. Additionally, both Group Stage third place finishers will advance to a FIFA Women's World Cup intercontinental play-off. At the conclusion of the event, the winning nation will also guarantee its place in the 2024 Paris Summer Olympic Games Women's Football Tournament and the 2024 CONCACAF W Gold Cup (see below). The runner-up and the third place sides will also progress to a CONCACAF Olympic play-in, to be played in September of 2023. The winner of the play-in will capture a place in the 2024 Paris Summer Olympic Games and the 2024 W Gold Cup.
2023 Road to CONCACAF W Gold Cup
(Qualifies teams into 2024 CONCACAF W Gold Cup)
Following the conclusion of the FIFA Women's World Cup Australia and New Zealand in August of 2023, where a minimum of four CONCACAF Nations will participate (two others will have an opportunity to qualify via an intercontinental play-off), the road to the first-ever CONCACAF W Gold Cup will begin, with 33 national teams, not including the two who will compete in the 2024 Paris Summer Olympic Games Women's Football Tournament. The sides will be split into groups within three leagues according to their CONCACAF Women's Ranking as follows:
- League A: Top nine ranked nations divided into three groups of three teams
- League B: Next 12 best ranked teams divided into three groups of four teams
- League C: Lowest ranked 12 teams divided into three groups of four teams
After the home and away group stage play, during the FIFA Women's match windows of September, October and November 2023, the top finishers in each of the League A groups will qualify for the 2024 CONCACAF W Gold Cup Group Stage.The second-place finishers in each of the League A groups and the first-place finishers in each of the League B groups will advance to a W Gold Cup play-in, scheduled for April of 2023. The three play-in winners will also qualify for the CONCACAF W Gold Cup Group Stage.
2024 CONCACAF W Gold Cup
The inaugural edition of the CONCACAF W Gold Cup will take place in the summer of 2024 and will consist of 12 teams split into three groups of four. The 12 participating nations will be determined as follows:
- Winner of the 2022 CONCACAF W Championship
- Winner of the CONCACAF Olympic Play-in
- Three League A Group winners of the Road to CONCACAF W Gold Cup
- Three winners of the CONCACAF W Gold Cup play-in
- Four guest nations from other Confederations
For the Group Stage, the 12 teams will be split into three groups of four teams each. After single round-robin play, the group winners, runners-up and the two best third-place finishers will qualify for the knockout stage, which will consist of quarterfinals, semi-finals and a final, where the W Gold Cup champion will be crowned.The W Gold Cup Final will not only crown the champion of what is now CONCACAF's new flagship women's international competition, but it will also cap off a 4-year cycle where teams from the region will have competed in a minimum of 195 official matches, which represents an 118% increase in comparison to the previous four-year cycle.
This new calendar prioritizes providing more official match dates for all CONCACAF region women's senior national teams and ensuring there is elite competition to showcase the highest level of women's international football in the Confederation. These two CONCACAF competitions will drive more regional growth on the women's side. A few concerns is that, for the W Gold Cup Finals, four teams (33%) from other confederations increases the caliber of play but is too many for a Confederation Women's Regional Finals and short-changes other CONCACAF nations and their players from gaining the experience of a major continental finals. In addition, teams from League C do not have any chance to make the Finals, even via a tiered playoff. That could be added by reducing the number of guests from other regions. There have been some concerns about the cost implications for smaller nations (like British Virgin Islands—with a population of just over 30,000, Curacao—160,000, Dominica—72,000 and St. Kitts and Nevis—54,000) with these increased games, but these federations must devote the resources in order to build the women's game—much of which comes from FIFA allocations. There will be a temptation to import a large number of diaspora (many of whom from the Caribbean nations are based in the U.S.) but these nations should prioritize using as many local players as possible and developing the local leagues. This will be interesting to watch in the future.
CONCACAF also launched a new campaign—We Belong—to celebrate women and girls football across North America, Central America and the Caribbean. It involved digital panel discussions about women's football in CONCACAF in conjunction with the draw for the CONCACAF W Qualifiers last month. The panels were entitled the Business of Belonging: Women & Football, led by CONCACAF President Victor Montagliani, with three sub-topics:
- Panel 1: Football State of the Union
- Panel 2: The Winning Formula: How to Sustain It
- Panel 3: The Business of Football
Tim Grainey is a contributor to Tribal Football. His latest book Beyond Bend it Like Beckham on the global game of women's football. Get yours copy today.
Follow Tim on Twitter: @TimGrainey