By Chrös McDougall | June 25, 2020, 12:04 p.m. (ET)

A general view of Sydney Opera House on June 25, 2020 in Sydney. 

 

The U.S. women’s soccer team’s quest for a three-peat will take the team to the Southern Hemisphere.

FIFA announced Thursday that Australia and New Zealand will co-host the 2023 competition, marking the first time in the tournament’s nine editions that it will be held south of the equator and also the first time the event will be split between two countries.

Australia and New Zealand beat a rival bid from Colombia in a 22-13 vote by the FIFA Council. Japan, which had also been bidding for the event, withdrew its application on Monday, citing the difficulties of hosting the World Cup and the postponed Olympic Games Tokyo 2021 in short succession, among other challenges. Brazil also ended a bid earlier this month due to cost concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S. will have an opportunity to make history in 2023 as the first country to win three consecutive Women’s World Cups. The Americans won the most recent tournament in 2019 in France, which followed a 2015 victory in Canada. No country has won more than the U.S.’ four Women’s World Cups. Germany, winners in 2003 and ’07, is the only other country to claim multiple titles.

The move to bring the World Cup to a new continent continues the sport’s swift expansion in recent years.

With more countries investing in women’s soccer, the 2015 tournament was the first to include 24 teams, doubling the size of the first Women’s World Cup in 1991, and the 2023 tournament will feature a 32-team field for the first time.

Meanwhile, global interest reached new peaks at the 2019 tournament, with the tournament reaching 1 billion viewers for the first time. An average audience of more than 82 million people watched the U.S. defeat the Netherlands 2-0 in the final, a 56 percent increase from the 2015 final.

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For American fans, the 2023 tournament might mean some late nights and early mornings: New Zealand is 16 hours ahead of Eastern Time, while Australia ranges from 12 to 14 hours ahead.

The Australia-New Zealand bid was considered the favorite going into today’s vote following FIFA’s technical evaluation earlier this month that awarded the trans-Tasman bid a score of 4.1 out of 5. Japan ranked second at 3.9, followed by Colombia at 2.8. Following Japan’s withdrawal, that country’s federation subsequently backed Australia-New Zealand.

While Australia has played host to the 2000 and 1956 Olympics, neither Australia nor New Zealand have host a FIFA World Cup.

The only previous World Cup to be shared across two countries was the 2002 men’s edition that took place in Japan and South Korea. The 2026 men’s World Cup will be split between the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

Had Colombia won, the Women’s World Cup would have been held for the first time in South America. The men’s World Cup has been contested on that continent five times, most recently in 2014 in Brazil.

Chrös McDougall has covered the Olympic and Paralympic movements for TeamUSA.org since 2009 on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc. He is based in Minneapolis-St. Paul.