FC Barcelona was brilliant last season. Not only was their play absolutely sublime, they won every competition they entered. That’s a seemingly impossible task that no one’s ever come close to sniffing before. They were La Liga Champions, European Champions, Spanish Cup Champions, Spanish Super Cup winners and UEFA Super Cup champions . And they were World Champions. Wait, world champions? As in New York Yankee-style World Champions?
No, not quite.
The FIFA Club World Cup is an annual cup competition that determines the best club team in the world. It takes the champions from each of the world’s regional club tournaments (the UEFA Champions League, the CONCACAF Champions League, South America’s Copa Libertadores etc.) and throws them into one competition every December. Over the years the name, location and format has changed but the prize remains: be the World Champion.
So could we ever see this in women’s soccer? Could we ever see FC Gold Pride take on Turbine Potsdam? Or Arsenal against Santos FC?
Like in the Women’s U.S. Open Cup post, I’ve featured a possbile format and a list of pro’s and con’s.
(Note: Unlike with the Women’s U.S. Open Cup, I don’t think that the market is quite ready for a competition like at this in present day. The women’s game needs to continue to grow like it has been in recent years before this becomes a practical endeavour. But I’m excited for the day it comes to fruition.)
The competition would take place annually every January and would be hosted by a different international city every year (preferably a warm one). Why January? It would be a nice curtain raiser for the new year’s international women’s football calendar. But more pragmatically, a lot of the major women’s leagues around the world are either in their offseason or on a Winter break (WPS, the Scandinavian leagues, Russia’s Supreme League, the Brazilian Paulista, etc.). There are also no major international competitions scheduled in January save for friendlies. It seems like it would be the least complicated time of the year.
The tournament I’ve sketched out would only feature three rounds and thus three games for the Champion at most. It would have to be a brief tournament with just eight teams, perhaps one to weeks at most. WPS will be busy with its Draft and will be beginning player camps and other major European leagues will be in their respective domestic competitions.
Here’s who would receive berths:
2 teams from WPS: Many consider WPS to be the best league in the world so it’s only right that they have two participants. The two could be the two teams that enter the previous year’s WPS Championship game. Since there’s no CONCACAF Champions League for women (and I doubt there ever will be) WPS will represent the region.
2 teams from UEFA: It’s also right for UEFA to have participants and they’ll be the two teams that enter the UEFA Women’s Champion League Final the year before.
1 team from CONMEBOL: It would be the Women’s Copa Libertadores winner. I really don’t know much about this tournament, other than it apparently exists because Marta played it in during the offseason which is good enough for me.
1 team from AFC: I need to plead ignorance here but I don’t think there’s a continental tournament in Asia between countries like South Korea, Japan, China, Australia etc. (Remember, Australia has been in the Asian Football Confederation since 2006). And if there’s not, perhaps AFC can set up a quick tournament with just several teams. The winner will win their berth into the FIFA Club World Cup.
1 team from CAF: See above. Women’s football is not quite developed in Africa although it definitely exists. South Africa, Ghana and Nigeria have strong programs so again, there might simply have to be a small invitational tournament amongst African countries to determine who enters.
1 Wild Card team: I’m not sure about this last spot. It should be a playoff between an Oceanic team and someone else, like in the men’s tournament. Perhaps it can be given to UEFA? Or be given to the winner of a potentional Women’s U.S. Open Cup Winner? Or a second team from South America or Asia? Or the previous competition’s winner?
It would a one-off, knock-out tournament for brevity. Teams would be seeded and grouped. 1 would play 4, 2 would play 3 and likewise in the next group. The four winning teams would advance to the Semifinals and the two remaining teams would advance to the Final. Like so:
4.) Wild Card
1A v 4A
2A v 3A
1B v 4B
2B v 3B
Winner A v Winner A
Winner B v Winner B
Winner A v Winner B
- It gives teams that are off our (as in North American fans) radar screens a chance to get noticed. Everyone can benefit from this. It will give non-WPS players (like Kim Little, Julie Fleeting, Lotta Schelin, Fatmire Baramaj etc.) a chance to be seen by a WPS audience. It also may put them in the shop window for WPS. Look at how many players were signed by WPS clubs after the 2009 All-Star Game against Umea.
- It would give teams that are in their off seasons one heck of a preseason training session.
- It gives teams from federations that aren’t known for their women’s football a chance to surprise us. Is women’s club football in Brazil, Australia or South Africa any good? We can have a clearer picture of their progress if their best teams play against the best in the world.
- It puts more impetus on domestic competition if a team knows it can qualify to play against the best in the world.
- International competition is good. Simple but true. It unites players and clubs from every corner of the world and could show that women’s football is a legitimate global sport.
- Is there really any good time of the year to host it? Women’s leagues around the world don’t occur concurrently so it’s always going to be a bit of a nightmare to find the right time to host the thing.
- Would FIFA care enough? Has FIFA demonstrated a strong commitment to women’s football over the years? I’ll let you be the judge of that. But there’s a ton of logistical questions that will have to be ironed out like travel, location and marketing. Would FIFA want that responsibility? (To be fair, FIFA has definitely shown a lot of commitment to women’s youth tournaments over the past year like the U-20 and U-17 World Cup’s. So why should this be any different?)
- Will clubs take it seriously? If it’s in January like I’m proposing, WPS rosters won’t be official yet and European clubs will be in mid-season. Squads will be exhausted or in a state of flux so what kind of teams will they field? It will defeat the purpose if very weakened sides are fielded. It won’t be a competition of the world’s best.
- What if a country doesn’t want to/can’t field a team? It could be a strain on one’s resources to have to fly to a foreign country and play a tournament. But this is probably easy: the next best team in the federation will then qualify.
- Loaned players. This could get complicated. For instance, during the offseason Marta went off to play for Santos and Sonia Bompastor and Camille Abily went to play for French teams. Let’s say Marta has two teams that are qualified for the tournament and is playing for one while the tournament is supposed to take place, which team does she represent? It will likely be the team that solely earns her right and not the loanee, but this could get into an issue of being cup-tied.
- The host country. The host country will need to be someplace that’s accessible by all the countries (which is probably impossible because we’re talking about teams from all over planet Earth here) and will also need to show some level of commitment to this tournament. It shouldn’t always be hosted in the United States or in Europe.
- Would anyone care? Ah, the question that immediately follows anything regarding women’s soccer. The men’s tournament isn’t that well-supported so why would a women’s tournament be?