In 1991, FIFA decided to introduce a new tournament, the FIFA Women’s World Cup. The tournament is contested by senior women’s football teams who are members of the Federation Internationale de Football Association, the sport’s international governing body. The competition has run every four years since the first tournament in 1991, which was then called the FIFA Women’s World Championship, and was held in China. The success of the competition across the world led to increased interest in both the tournament and in women’s football in general, although viewership remains lower overall compared to men’s football.
The current format of the tournament has national teams competing for 23 slots during a three-year qualification phase, with the 24th slot automatically going to the host nation. The tournament proper, which is also sometimes called the World Cup Finals, is held at venues within the host nation, and takes place over a period of around one month, although it has been known to run for longer if limited pitches are available, or extreme weather causes some of the matches to be temporarily postponed.
Out of the seven FIFA Women’s World Cup tournaments to have been held, only four national teams have been able to win the cup. As of 2015, the champion team is the United States, who managed their third title win.
A test tournament was held in 1971, in Mexico, to see if an international women’s football tournament could be considered commercially viable. The results were mixed; however, the unofficial tournament did pave the way for future competitions and started a conversation about women’s football in general.
In 1999, the Women’s World Cup managed to set a record for a female sporting event, when the final took place in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. Over 90000 people attended the event, demonstrating the commercial viability and demand for women’s football on the international stage.
The 2003 Women’s World Cup was also held in the United States, although China was supposed to be hosting the tournament; the SARS outbreak forced organisers to change the location. As compensation, China retained their automatic qualification for entry into the tournament and was given hosting rights for the next one, which was successfully held in China in 2007.