This week, the United States Women’s National Team will begin its quest to qualify for the 2019 Women’s World Cup. Mexico, Canada, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago, Cuba, Jamaica, and Costa Rica will also seek to become one of 24 teams that head to France next summer to compete to hoist the trophy in Lyon on July 7th.
July 7th. It’s going to be a great night where the international women’s game takes center stage. Like the men’s version this past summer, it will be a night where no other soccer events take place so that FIFA and an entire planet of soccer fans can focus on two teams playing to become world champions.
Or so we thought. Let’s take a look at the FIFA calendar for 2019 and focus on June and July:
If that seems like a loaded two months of international soccer, it’s because it is. The Women’s World Cup is scheduled to begin with the opening match on June 7, 2019 in Paris and conclude with the final in Lyon on July 7, 2019. But, when you look closely, that will not be the only international competition taking place. Right here on our turf, the 2019 Gold Cup will start on June 18, 2019 with an expanded field of 16 teams and have its final at Soldier Field in Chicago. The date of the Gold Cup final? July 7, 2019. The 2019 Copa America will kick off in São Paulo, Brazil on June 14, 2019. The final will be at the Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro...July 7, 2019.
Three finals for three major international competitions on the same day. This doesn’t mention the Africa Cup of Nations, which opens on June 7, 2019, the same day as France opens the Women’s World Cup in Paris. The Cup of Nations will run until June 30th. UEFA will hold its 2019 Nations League finals from June 5th through 9th. So, while the Women’s World Cup opener will not have to compete with any UEFA Nations League semifinal matches, the UEFA Nations League final will still try to outshadow the first weekend of FIFA’s biggest women’s tournament.
This wasn’t always the case. You’ll recall that in 2015, while Copa America took place, it didn’t host its final on the same day as the Women’s World Cup final. The 2015 Gold Cup began 2 days after the conclusion of the Women’s World Cup, while the Africa Cup of Nations took place in January and February that year.
So, why is FIFA allowing so many regional tournaments to take place during the Women’s World Cup when none were allowed to take place during the men’s tournament this past summer? It’s simple: FIFA just doesn’t care about showcasing the women’s game, despite what it may say. They care more about the schedule being advantageous for the men and their clubs than they do about giving the women’s game the stage it deserves. The men get three summers where FIFA allows their tournaments to take center stage. The women only get one. And in 2019, that one year the women get, they still have to share their stage.
There’s no reason why the regional tournaments can’t just start in July, or at the very least in late June during a break between the 2nd round and the quarterfinals, or between the quarterfinals and the semifinals. For these tournaments, it’s not something where but for the Women’s World Cup, they would still be held in June. The 2009, 2013, 2015, and 2017 editions of the Gold Cup were held in the month of July. The 2011 tournament was the only of the last five Gold Cups that was held in June (also during a Women’s World Cup). The 2015 Copa America and the 2016 Copa America Centenario are the only of the last 5 editions of that tournament that have taken place in June, the rest occurring mostly or wholly in the the month of July.
Women’s soccer deserves the stage, and they deserve to have this stage to themselves just as it already exists for the men. FIFA is doing a disservice by allowing the men to stage regional tournaments that will compete with the Women’s World Cup for eyeballs, sponsorship dollars, TV time slots, and attention. Not to mention for many American fans, they will have to choose between heading to France to support the USWNT or traveling across America for the USMNT. It’s a shame that FIFA cares more about the men’s game than the women’s game, but it’s more of a shame that they’ve become so blatant about it.
There’s still time, however. FIFA should call upon its confederations to alter the dates of their tournaments so that the Women’s World Cup can shine alone where the world can pay attention. To whoever hoists the trophy in Lyon (and hopefully it’s the USWNT), that should be the biggest soccer moment of the summer. It should get its full due, and have a day of its own. Women’s soccer deserves that respect. It’s earned that respect. It’s terrible that FIFA won’t give it to them.