Tuesday, June 25, 2024

2027 Women’s World Cup: Brazil named host, bringing the tournament to South America for the first time

Brazil officially won the rights to host the 2027 Women’s World Cup when it beat out a joint bid from Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands to become the first South American nation to host the competition.

The FIFA Council voted on the decision at the FIFA Congress, which took place in Bangkok, Thailand.

The winning bid has been considered the favorite to win the rights over the last several weeks when news emerged that Brazil was the FIFA Council’s preference to host the competition. Those reports broke shortly after the U.S. and Mexico dropped their joint bid to host the 2027 Women’s World Cup and refocused their efforts to the 2031 edition. Their case was bolstered a week ago when it scored a higher rating than the European bid in FIFA’s bid evaluation report.

Brazil scored a four out of five while the European bid earned a 3.7 out of five. The former outranked the latter in three out of four categories — accommodation, fan festival venues and stadiums — while the European venture received higher marks for team and referee facilities. FIFA also deemed the European bid as “high risk” as it pertains to legal and contractual framework that could make the tournament more expensive to host.

The Belgium-Germany-Netherlands effort also caught flak for picking smaller venues than the Brazil bid did, something many argue would impede the rapid growth of women’s soccer. Six of the stadiums in the European bid seat less than 40,000, while each of the stadiums in Brazil’s pitch reaches that threshold.

The 2027 Women’s World Cup, regardless of where it would have been hosted, is being eyed as a chance to continue the development of the women’s game. It will serve as the follow-up act to the 2023 edition in Australia and New Zealand, which set new attendance records for the tournament and viewership records in different countries, including the host nations and the homes of the finalists, Spain and England. It was also a financially successful tournament, generating $570 million in revenue, per Front Office Sports, serving as an example of the economic potential of women’s soccer when stakeholders invest properly.

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Breaking new ground

Brazil has been synonymous with soccer for several decades now but the popularity of the women’s game lags behind the prominence of the men’s game because of the longtime oppression of women’s sports. It was illegal for women to play soccer in Brazil from 1941 to 1979, and the first women’s soccer league only began play in 2007.

The tides are changing, though. Around 11 million people tuned into Brazil’s first game at the 2023 Women’s World Cup, a 4-0 win over Panama, and working hours were restructured around the country so people could watch the team compete.

That said, there is still room for improvement in Brazil. The rapid growth of women’s soccer in recent years has been concentrated in the U.S. and Europe, where investment, media coverage and attendances are rising at the club and country level. That’s true despite the success of Brazil’s women’s national team — they were the runners-up at the 2007 Women’s World Cup, earned silver medals at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics and boast one of the game’s all-time greats in Marta. The 38-year-old has won The Best FIFA Women’s Player award six times and though she will not compete at the 2027 competition, she has become one of the sport’s most inspirational figures as a constant advocate of women’s soccer.

By selecting Brazil as the host for the 2027 Women’s World Cup, FIFA could be noticing the potential of the nation — and South America as a whole — as the next destination to fast-track the development of women’s soccer globally, and so the 2027 Women’s World Cup comes to Brazil with the potential of fast-tracking the game’s development there.

Concerns about the venues

The 2027 Women’s World Cup will share seven stadiums with the men’s World Cup in 2014, offering an opportunity to host significant matches in stadiums that became financial burdens to teams and taxpayers shortly after the 2014 World Cup ended

Several questions persist about the location — and the conditions — of the selected venues, though. The 10 stadiums presented in Brazil’s bid book are spread across the country, as was the case during the men’s World Cup in 2014. The teams competing in Brazil logged thousands of travel miles in many cases, including the U.S. men’s national team, which traveled around 9,000 miles during the group stage.

Two of the stadiums in the bid book could require major updates before 2027 amid severe flooding in Rio Grande do Sul, which began last month and is ongoing. At least 149 people died because of the floods per local authorities, while 108 are missing and more than 620,000 people have been displaced.

Estadio Beira-Rio was flooded but no longer is, while Arena do Gremio remains underwater, per the Associated Press. It is unclear how much damage either stadium sustained during the natural disaster, but the floods forced the Brazilian Football Confederation to suspend the next two rounds of the men’s domestic league.

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