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The History of the FIFA Women’s World Cup



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The History of the FIFA Women's World Cup

FIFA Women’s World Cup Timeline: 1991‒2019

The ninth edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup that kicked off this summer in Australia and New Zealand is expected to break records.

For the first time, 32 teams are competing at the premier international event for women’s soccer, up from 24 teams in the two prior editions. And according to FIFA, the tournament is already on pace to become the most attended women’s sports event in history, with over a million tickets already sold.

Eight countries are making their debut in the tournament after qualifying for the first time:

  • 🇵🇭 Philippines
  • 🇮🇪 Ireland
  • 🇿🇲 Zambia
  • 🇭🇹 Haiti
  • 🇻🇳 Vietnam
  • 🇵🇹 Portugal
  • 🇵🇦 Panama
  • 🇲🇦 Morocco

How has the tournament grown?

This graphic created by JVDW Designs explores the timeline of this tournament, from its origins with only 12 teams in 1991 to expansions during the 21st century.

The Origins of Women’s Soccer

Though there are reports of women’s soccer matches as early as the 1700s, the sport started to grow in popularity in 1895 thanks to the British Ladies’ Football Club (BLFC), one of the first women’s soccer clubs.

Despite receiving no support from soccer associations in the UK, the club held its inaugural match in London and then went on tour. They received a lot of attention in the press, both due to the sport itself and debates in Victorian England over women’s rights.

First match british ladies by paget

After gaining in popularity over the next decades and even drawing bigger crowds than men’s matches, England’s governing soccer association retaliated by banning women’s soccer in 1921. The stated reason was that “the game of football is quite unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged.”

Other countries followed suit over time, sidelining women’s soccer from France to Brazil. It wasn’t until the success of the 1966 Men’s World Cup in England, which set records for attendance and was the first to be broadcast to other continents, that England and then other countries in Europe re-established women’s soccer due to increased interest.

The FIFA Women’s World Cup

After multiple international tournaments in the 1970s and 1980s, FIFA finally organized the inaugural FIFA Women’s World Cup in China in 1991.

At the outset, the athletes participating in the Women’s World Cup were not treated as professionals. In her 2019 book, sports journalist Caitlyn Murray details that uniforms were sometimes hand-me-downs from men’s teams, and accommodations during travel were far from luxurious. Notably, the tournament also lacked prize money until 2007.

In total, 35 different national teams have participated in at least one of the eight tournaments held through 2019. Here is the full list, with host countries noted in bold:

Country Women's World Cups Attended
🇺🇸 United States 1991, 1995,1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015, 2019
🇸🇪 Sweden 1991, 1995, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015, 2019
🇧🇷 Brazil 1991, 1995, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015, 2019
🇳🇴 Norway 1991, 1995, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015, 2019
🇩🇪 Germany1991, 1995, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015, 2019
🇯🇵 Japan 1991, 1995, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015, 2019
🇳🇬 Nigeria 1991, 1995, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015, 2019
🇨🇳 China1991, 1995, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2015, 2019
🇨🇦 Canada1995, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015, 2019
🇦🇺 Australia 1995, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015, 2019
🇳🇿 New Zealand 1991, 2007, 2011, 2015, 2019
🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 England 1995, 2007, 2011, 2015, 2019
🇩🇰 Denmark 1991, 1995, 1999, 2007
🇰🇵 North Korea1999, 2003, 2007, 2011
🇫🇷 France 2003, 2011, 2015, 2019
🇮🇹 Italy 1991, 1999, 2019
🇲🇽 Mexico 1999, 2011, 2015
🇦🇷 Argentina2003, 2007, 2019
🇰🇷 South Korea 2003, 2015, 2019
🇷🇺 Russia1999, 2003
🇨🇴 Colombia 2011, 2015
🇨🇲 Cameroon2015, 2019
🇳🇱 Netherlands 2015, 2019
🇪🇸 Spain2015, 2019
🇹🇭 Thailand 2015, 2019
🇹🇼 Taiwan 1991
🇬🇶 Equatorial Guinea 2011
🇨🇷 Costa Rica 2015
🇨🇮 Côte d'Ivoire2015
🇪🇨 Ecuador 2015
🇨🇭 Switzerland 2015
🇨🇱 Chile 2019
🇯🇲 Jamaica2019
🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Scotland 2019
🇿🇦 South Africa 2019

From the onset, the U.S. emerged as dominant forces in the women’s game. They won the inaugural official tournament in 1991 and are one of just seven countries that have qualified for each edition of the Women’s World Cup from 1991 to 2019.

In total, the American side has won four FIFA Women’s World Cups so far. Throughout the tournament’s history, they’ve never finished lower than third place.

🇺🇸 United States4
🇩🇪 Germany2
🇳🇴 Norway 1
🇯🇵 Japan1

The all-time leading World Cup goal scorer, however, comes from Brazil. Marta Vieira da Silva, or “Queen Marta,” etched her name in history by scoring an impressive 17 goals across five World Cups for Brazil, surpassing the men’s World Cup goalscoring record of 16 goals.

As the ninth edition unfolds, the tournament’s growth and global appeal continue to soar. With an even brighter future in the cards for women’s soccer, the question remains: who will come out on top in the 2023 Women’s World Cup?

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This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.

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Ranked: The World’s Largest Stadiums

The U.S. is known for its massive arenas, but in a top 10 ranking of the world’s largest stadiums, two other countries take the lead.



Ranking The World’s Largest Stadiums

From football games to live concerts, stadiums serve as a gathering place for some of life’s most exciting moments.

While some stadiums are famous for their history, others are truly massive in size, capable of seating over 100,000 people at once. In this graphic, we’ve ranked the 10 largest stadiums in the world by seating capacity, with Madison Square Garden included as a reference point.

Data and Highlights

As shown in the graphic above, the world’s largest stadium belongs to India. Named after the country’s Prime Minister, the Narendra Modi Stadium was designed to host cricket games.

See below for the full list in tabular format.

1Narendra Modi Stadium🇮🇳 IndiaAhmedabad132,000
2Rungrado 1st of May Stadium🇰🇵 North KoreaPyongyang114,000
3Michigan Stadium🇺🇸 USAnn Arbor, MI107,601
4Beaver Stadium🇺🇸 USState College, PA106,572
5Ohio Stadium🇺🇸 USColumbus, OH102,780
6Kyle Field🇺🇸 USCollege Station, TX102,733
7Neyland Stadium🇺🇸 USKnoxville, TN102,455
8Tiger Stadium🇺🇸 USBaton Rouge, LA102,321
9Darrell K Royal - Texas Memorial Stadium🇺🇸 USAustin, TX100,119
10Bryant-Denny Stadium🇺🇸 USTuscaloosa, AL100,077

The number two spot is held by Rungrado 1st of May Stadium, which is surprisingly located in North Korea. It was completed in 1989 with the purpose of hosting the 13th World Festival of Youth and Students, and is now used to host various government events.

It’s interesting to note that this arena initially had a higher capacity of 150,000 people, but was reduced to 114,000 after renovations in 2014.

Looking further down the list, the third to tenth largest stadiums belong to the United States. All of these arenas are primarily used for college football, serving as the home field for their respective university team.

A shocking fact is that these arenas are significantly larger than NFL stadiums. For example, the largest NFL stadium is MetLife Stadium, which has a seating capacity of 82,500.

The Runner-Ups

While just three countries are represented in the top 10 list, there is plenty of geographical diversity once we look a little further down. Shown below are the 11th to 14th largest stadiums in the world.

largest stadiums 11 to 14

Camp Nou and FNB Stadium are two historic soccer stadiums which have both hosted a FIFA World Cup tournament. Camp Nou is owned by FC Barcelona, the world’s third most valuable soccer club.

New Administrative Capital Stadium is expected to replace the Cairo International Stadium as Egypt’s new national arena, and could be used to host the Olympics or a FIFA World Cup in the future if called upon.

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