Riding on the enormous success of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup France, FIFA has officially launched the bidding process for the 2023 edition. This tournament will be groundbreaking in one huge way: it will be the first Women’s World Cup with 32 nations. In addition, there are 8 nations bidding to host the Women’s World Cup. As of now, the nations that have expressed a formal interest in hosting are Australia, Japan, South Korea, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and New Zealand. Belgium has said they were interested after watching the success of France’s tournament, but have not formally registered their interest to FIFA.
As of now, FIFA has set the deadline for December for all interested nations to submit their completed bids. After that, the host will be confirmed in May 2020. South Korea has discussed a joint bid with North Korea in the past, but since relations have thawed between the two nations, South Korea is now planning to submit their bid alone. However, should there be strong progress in the peace talks in the next 4 months, it is certainly possible that there could be a joint Koreas bid. Let’s discuss the merits of some of these bids and why I think that Korea’s bid, whether solo or with North Korea, would present a very huge opportunity for women’s football’s continued growth.
Let’s just be clear: Korea is not a favorite to win the hosting rights to this tournament. The two clear Asian favorites at the moment are Australia and Japan, in that order. At the moment, women’s football is getting more and more popular Down Under and the Matildas have a genuine superstar on their hands named Sam Kerr. With the Matildas and the FA’s full support of this bid, I imagine that Australia are right now the favorites to win the rights to host the 2023 Women’s World Cup.
Japan are also a strong contender because they are a World Cup Champion who have yet to actually host the event. The Nadeshiko League, the Japanese women’s league where Lee Mina plies her trade at INAC Kobe Leonessa, is thriving with 3 divisions of play and promotion and relegation. Japanese fans are very supportive of the Nadeshiko League and national team so it would seem a good idea to have Japan host the Women’s World Cup. With the infrastructure from the 2020 Summer Olympics, Japan will be ready to host a large amount of tourists in 2023.
The Intriguing Bids
This is the category where I believe that South Korea currently fits in. An intriguing bid is one that may appeal to the egos and legacy interests of those at FIFA. As we all know, FIFA is an organization run by some of the most egotistical figures in world football. These people love to sell you a great story about what a good thing they’re doing for world football (when we all really know it’s just about money). South Korea would be one of these bids. Before I dig into our bid, let’s also name some of the other intriguing bids.
Taking the Women’s World Cup to South America or Africa for the first time would certainly appeal to FIFA’s egos. South Africa has recently launched a women’s league and it certainly has the infrastructure needed to host a World Cup after the success in 2010. Taking the World Cup to Colombia or Argentina would also be a good idea. Women’s football in Argentina especially is on the rise and I think they are currently the strongest South American bid at the moment.
However, since this is a Korean football site, I obviously support South Korea’s bid. I’ll talk about it in two ways: the solo bid and the joint bid with North Korea.
The solo bid is really a good idea because South Korea just lost the rights to host the 2023 AFC Asian Cup. Why not tide over fan’s disappointment by winning the bid for the Women’s World Cup. South Korea wasn’t sure whether or not they would stay in the running for this tournament, but I am glad the KFA did.
Now let’s get into why this is an intriguing bid. First of all, the Taegeuk Nangja are currently one of the teams in Asia undergoing a rapid improvement. They have qualified for 2 consecutive Women’s World Cups and currently have 3 players plying their trade in the FA WSL, one of the best women’s leagues in the world. Right now, the WK League, the top pro league in Korea, is pretty stable with 8 teams and had quite a few non-Korean players who went to this summer’s Women’s World Cup with their nations. If FIFA wants to take the Women’s World Cup back to Asia, it would certainly be intriguing to them to take it to a nation where women’s football is growing and gaining acceptance from the mainstream, rather than a nation where it is already popular. My point is this: it would be great to see Japan or Australia host the Women’s World Cup, but they don’t need this tournament for women’s football to thrive and be popular in their country. South Korea may well use this tournament to push women’s football over the top. The WK League could use the hosting rights as a way to incentivize cities to join the league with a new club. In addition, if the attendance numbers at the 2023 Women’s World Cup in Korea are strong, which they probably would be, more casual fans will watch on TV and want to check out a women’s or men’s football game when the tournament is over. This is a good thing for football in South Korea.
Now let’s address the joint bid: bidding with North Korea could possibly even appeal more to FIFA than bidding alone. As you may or may not know, Gianni Infantino, the president of FIFA, has quite a large ego. He would love to win the Nobel Peace Prize and wants to use a joint tournament, men’s or women’s, hosted by the Koreas as a way to do this (I am sure he has thought about this once or twice). If there is progress made in talks between South Korea, North Korea, and the United States with regards to peace on the Korean Peninsula and denuclearization of the peninsula in the next 4 months, the KFA should absolutely look to include North Korea in its bid. The stadium and transportation infrastructure would need to be brought up to date in North Korea for the bid to succeed, but on a pure ego and legacy basis, everyone at FIFA would be hugely interested in a Korean Peninsula bid. But, to be very clear, with the current relations between the two Koreas (improved though they may be), there is very little chance an agreement could be brokered in 4 months that would allow them to bid together for such a large event. The logistics would be far too complex and it would be probably be too much of a rush to make this type of decision. I wrote that first part more as a critique of FIFA than as a recommendation for what the KFA should actually do.
Right now, it is not clear whether Belgium will bid but if they do, they will be a longshot to win. I cannot imagine FIFA taking the tournament to Europe twice in a row with all their talk of spreading the tournament around the world regularly.
Brazil is in domestic turmoil at the moment and the public was very upset with how poorly their hosting of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics went for the public. I strongly doubt that the Brazil bid would garner enough public support to actually convince FIFA that is a good idea to bring the Women’s World Cup to Brazil.
Finally, New Zealand is a great little island nation (I have been there recently and loved it) but with Australia as a favorite, there is little chance that FIFA would look their way with any serious consideration.
I have no idea who will win the rights to host the Women’s World Cup next May, but you know exactly why I want the Women’s World Cup to come to South Korea in 2023. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.