Reigning champ USA has revamped path to Women's World Cup

Miami (AFP) –


Two-time reigning champion United States will have a revamped qualifying path to the 2023 Women's World Cup under changes announced Thursday by CONCACAF.

North American football's governing body will stage a new women's event, the CONCACAF W Championship, in 2022 and an inaugural 12-team Women's Gold Cup in 2024.

Qualifiers for the W Championship will begin in November, with 30 teams starting down the path to the 2023 Women's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand and 2024 Paris Olympics.

"These new competitions will be game-changing for women's football in CONCACAF," said CONCACAF head of women's football Karina LeBlanc. "We're providing a platform for women footballers in Concacaf to thrive."

The United States and Canada, the region's two highest-ranked teams, will have byes into the W Championship and six groups of five nations will compete in group stage play from November to April, with group winners joining the US and Canada in the event.

The eight teams will be split into two groups of four and the top two from each will advance to the semi-finals and ensure berths at the 2023 Women's World Cup. Third-place teams will reach intercontinental playoffs for Women's World Cup berths.

The 2022 W Championship winner also qualifies for the 2024 Paris Olympics. The runner-up and third-place team will meet in an Olympic play-in series to be contested in September 2023 for another Paris berth.

The teams booking Olympic dates in France will also become the first two qualifiers for the 2024 Women's Gold Cup.

The United States won the 2015 Women's World Cup in Canada and the 2019 Women's World Cup in France. The American women have won four titles and never finished worse than third in the event since its 1991 debut.