If the United States women's national team is going to qualify for the upcoming World Cup and Olympics, they now have the roadmap for how they will have to do it.
The CONCACAF W Championship, which for the first time will double as the qualification tournament for both the Women's World Cup and the Olympics, has been set July 4-18, 2022 in Monterrey, Mexico.
The USWNT and Canada will automatically compete in the W Championship while 30 other teams will compete for the last six slots in a play-in tournament starting this week that runs through April.
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Of the eight teams competing in the W Championship, the top four finishers will automatically qualify for the 2023 Women's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. That is more forgiving than in the past thanks to the World Cup being expanded from 24 teams to 32. Two more CONCACAF teams will have a chance to qualify via an intercontinental playoff tournament against eight other teams from around the world.
The winner of the W Championship will also directly qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics. The second- and third-placed teams will compete in a playoff to be held in September 2023 for the second spot in the Olympics. Only two teams will represent CONCACAF at the Olympics.
For the USWNT, this marks their first time having to qualify for a World Cup on foreign soil in more than a decade. Mexico hosted the qualification tournament for the 2011 World Cup and there the USWNT suffered a surprise loss to Mexico, forcing the Americans to qualify via an intercontinental home-and-away playoff against Italy.
The previous two World Cup qualification tournaments for the 2019 and 2015 events were held in the United States.
The USWNT has never failed to qualify for a World Cup or an Olympics.
The CONCACAF W Championship format will see the eight teams split into two groups. The group stage will open with round-robin play before moving onto a knockout format starting in the semifinals. The tournament's 16 matches will be played in two venues in Monterrey: Estadio Universitario and Estadio BBVA.
The tournament will make use of VAR, or video assistant referees, for the first time.
The USWNT is currently in camp for the SheBelieves Cup starting on Thursday against the Czech Republic, New Zealand and Iceland. All U.S. matches will air on ESPN or ABC.