What Are The Differences Between Men's And Women's World Cup?
Every fan of soccer, from the casual fan to the devotee, knows about the FIFA World Cup, and most know that there are two versions of the World Cup: one for men and one for women. So, what are the differences between the two tournaments? Do they have any different rules? How long have they each been around? How many teams play in each World Cup? Below, we will go over all of the major differences between the Men’s World Cup and the Women’s World Cup.
FIFA Men’s World Cup vs. FIFA Women’s World Cup
Both the Men’s World Cup and the Women’s World Cup are managed by FIFA, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association. In terms of rules and regulations pertaining to the game of soccer, there is no difference between the two tournaments. The rules of soccer are consistent across both men and women’s leagues, and thus, there is no visual difference in how the game is played in either World Cup.
Additionally, the two tournaments are structured in exactly the same way. Both tournaments consist of a Group Stage, in which different national teams are grouped together and play matches to earn group points, with a certain number of teams per group (adding up to 16 total) moving on to the Knockout Stages, where teams are sorted into a single-elimination bracket that consists of the Round of 16, the Quaterfinals, the Semifinals, a Third-Place Match, and lastly, the World Cup Final.
With these similarities in mind, the major differences between the Men’s and Women’s World Cups are as follows:
- Length of Existence
- Number of Teams
- Pitch Material
- Prize Money
Length of Existence
Likely the biggest difference between the Men’s and Women’s World Cups is how long they have been around. The FIFA Men’s World Cup has existed since 1930, with its first iteration being held in the country of Uruguay. In that inaugural World Cup, the host nation took home the title, defeating Argentina in the Final, while the United States placed third and Yugoslavia fourth.
By contrast, the Women’s World Cup has been around for far fewer years. The first edition of the Women’s World Cup was held in China in 1991, a full 61 years after the start of the men’s tournament. In that World Cup, the United States won it all, with Norway placing second, Sweden third, and Germany fourth. Both the Men’s and Women’s World Cups are held every four years, though the men’s tournament has been canceled before on account of World War II.
Number of Teams
The next major difference between the Men’s and Women’s World Cups is the number of teams that participate in the tournament. The Men’s World Cup currently consists of 32 teams, and has since 1998, while the Women’s World Cup started out with only 12 teams, increasing gradually to 24 teams for the 2015 edition of the Women’s World Cup. However, as of today, the upcoming 2023 Women’s World Cup is set to consist of 32 teams, just like the men’s tournament.
A third difference between the Men’s and Women’s World Cups is the type of surface the tournaments are played on. Since its founding in 1930, the Men’s World Cup has always been played on natural grass.
The Women’s World Cup, however, has been played on artificial turf. This led to some debate over the fairness of the Men’s World Cup being allowed to use natural grass, as artificial turf is linked to greater injuries and can even affect performance via the way it interacts with the ball and players. Fortunately, in 2019, FIFA banned the use of artificial turf across soccer events that it sanctions, and the 2023 Women’s World Cup will be the first played on real grass.
Another major difference between the two World Cups is in terms of prize money, and this has perhaps proved the most contentious aspect of the battle between the two tournaments. In 2022, the prize money for the Men’s World Cup in Qatar was estimated at $440 million, with qualifying teams receiving $1.5 million prior to playing, the champions receiving $42 million, the runners-up $30 million, and all other teams receiving at least $9 million depending on their placement.
Conversely, estimates for the 2019 Women’s World Cup placed the tournament’s prize money at $30 million total, approximately 7.5% of the men’s prize purse. Over the past few years, many prominent women’s soccer players have come forward to protest and advocate against the pay disparity between men and women’s players in soccer, such as in a famous lawsuit filed by U.S. soccer players Carli Lloyd, Hope Solo, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, and Becky Sauerbrunn. As of now, FIFA has boosted the prize money for the 2023 Women’s World Cup to $150 million, though this is still less than half the prize money of the men’s tournament.
The final major difference between the Men’s and Women’s World Cups is in terms of viewership. While the 2022 Men’s World Cup was viewed by five billion people around the world, the most recent Women’s World Cup, held in France in 2019, attracted only 14.3 million viewers in the United States, while the 2015 Women’s World Cup drew in 764 million viewers worldwide. Fortunately, the viewership for the Women’s World Cup has been growing each year.
Are there any rule differences between the Men’s and Women’s World Cups?
There are no rule differences between the Men’s and Women’s World Cups. Because soccer is a game with a long history, standardized rules, and no special differences needed for men and women to play, the two tournaments require no rule differences, and are structured in the same manner, each being held every four years.
How many teams are in the Men’s and Women’s World Cups?
There are currently 32 teams in both the Men’s and Women’s World Cups. The Men’s World Cup has had 32 teams since 1998, while the Women’s World Cup started out with 12 teams in 1991 and increased to 24 by 2015. As of 2023, the women’s tournament is set to increase to 32 teams, with the men’s tournament set to grow to 48 teams in 2026.
How long have the Men’s and Women’s World Cups existed?
The Men’s and Women’s World Cups have been around for very different lengths of time. The men’s tournament has existed since 1930, with its first edition being held in Uruguay. Meanwhile, the women’s tournament has only existed since 1991, first being held in China.