Soccer's world governing body FIFA has approved the expansion of the Women's World Cup from the existing 24 teams to 32 for the 2023 edition and reopened the bidding process for potential hosts.
"The FIFA Council has unanimously agreed to a proposal to expand the number of teams taking part in the women's World Cup from 24 to 32, with effect as of the next edition of the tournament in 2023," it said in a statement.
FIFA said Wednesday that the decision was made remotely.
Nine national associations had expressed interest in hosting and were due to submit their formal bids by Oct. 4: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa and South Korea, which could bid jointly with North Korea
Under the new timetable, any national association has until December to make a bid. FIFA expects a bid evaluation report next April and a decision the following month.
FIFA's statement made no mention of prize money. The U.S. received $4 million of a $30 million prize pool for winning the World Cup on July 7, a small percentage of the $38 million from a $400 million pool that France got for winning the 2018 men's World Cup. FIFA has increased prize money for the 2022 men's World Cup to $440m and FIFA President Gianni Infantino said July 5 that he was proposing FIFA double the women's prize money to $60m for 2023.
After the U.S. won the women's final in Lyon, France, fans in the stadium chanted "Equal Pay!"
Infantino said in a statement that "this is the time to keep the momentum going and take concrete steps to foster the growth of women's football" and "it means that, from now on, dozens more member associations will organize their women's football program knowing they have a realistic chance of qualifying."
"We have a duty to do the groundwork and strengthen women's football development infrastructure across all confederations," he said.
The Women's World Cup started with 12 teams in 1991, expanded to 16 in 1999 and 24 in 2015.
The men's World Cup was played with 13-16 teams from 1930 to 1978, 24 from 1982 to 1994 and has been contested with 32 since. It is due to expand to 48 in 2026, when the tournament is co-hosted by the United States, Mexico and Canada.
Infantino also has proposed a Women's Club World Cup, creating a women's world league and doubling FIFA's investment in women's soccer in the next four-year cycle to $1 billion.
Information from Reuters and The Associated Press was used in this report.