The final for the 2023 Women's World Cup is in the books, and what a competition it was. We had shocks -- Philippines over Norway! USA out in the round of 16! Germany out in the group stage! -- and a worthy winner as Spain bested England 1-0 in Sydney in a battle of the tournament's two best sides.
And so, attention naturally turns to the next World Cup, to be held in 2027. Our writers who covered the 2023 edition in Australia and New Zealand make their predictions and bold projections for what might await in the next cycle.
Sophie Lawson: The competitive balance continues
It would be too easy to simply say that I think Japan will build from this tournament and win the whole thing in four years, because so much can happen over a tournament cycle. While I do think and hope Nadeshiko will be in the mix, you can't overlook the wealth of talent in the U.S. should the Americans find a coach who can make them sing from the same hymn sheet. Likewise, we've seen teams start to catch up and reduce gaps, even those that are poorly funded and/or supported back home.
So my simple, not at all bold, prediction for 2027 is that it will be a World Cup that's too close to call, just as this one was with so many games in the knockout rounds decided by the finest of margins. This has been the World Cup to let the world's clubs know that if they have just the right balance of luck and tournament management, it really could be them. Although traditional powers will always be in the mix, the field has never felt more open.
Mark Ogden: The U.S. will have to fight hard to reclaim the top spot in the game
The first thing to say is that it would have been helpful had the 2027 hosts been decided by now. As it stands, the tournament could be in Brazil, South Africa, the United States-Mexico or in Europe, co-hosted by Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. We won't know the successful bid until May 2024, so it's tough to predict how the tournament will play out because all the potential host nations will ensure different conditions for the teams involved.
Alexis Nunes details why Spain's Women's World Cup triumph is such a huge achievement.
No matter where the 2027 World Cup is eventually played, the USWNT will face an almighty challenge to reclaim their place at the top of the game. Doing that will obviously be much easier if they are awarded hosting rights alongside Mexico, but it will take more than the familiarity of playing at home to turn the tide back in their favour because the European nations are catching up fast.
Take Spain, which is producing so much talent at the youth level and could be a dominant force by 2027. England will be strong again, while France, Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands will also be challengers. Colombia could make rapid progress, while Nigeria will be buoyed by their performance in this tournament too.
Wherever it's hosted, the USWNT are going to have to come through a crowded field if they are to win, and it might prove too tough and too crowded.
Sam Marsden: Look out for La Roja
After the final, I'm not sure how much of a big shout this is, but I'm going to call this the start of a Spanish dynasty in women's football. They have been ticking off major titles at the youth level for years, as back-to-back U17 world champions and winners of the U20 World Cup last year. They are only going to get better.
In four years, I predict they will have a new coach and an even better team. Midfielder Aitana Bonmatí, 25, should still be at her peak, and forward Salma Paralluelo will have developed into the real thing. Goalkeeper Cata Coll, right-back Ona Batlle and left-back Olga Carmona are three other youngsters who were part of Spain's success in Australia and New Zealand. Joining them will be Vicky López, who is only 17, but will be the next midfield talent to breakthrough at Barcelona.
Watch out for her at the 2027 World Cup, and keep an eye on Spain's production line in the coming years.
Tom Hamilton: The sport continues to grow
The gap will have narrowed further and the most competitive World Cup will become even more hardly fought. Spain will be an incredible force, but there will also be an African side in the final four. Elsewhere, Linda Caicedo will be on every billboard having become the first £1m transfer in football.
The USWNT will be a resurgent force, but they'll get knocked out by England in the latter stages. Lucy Bronze will still be starting for the Lionesses in the newly coined "Lucy Bronze position," an evolution of the "John Stones role" at Manchester City.
Oh, and there will be goalkeepers' shirts on sale.
Caitlin Murray: The next World Cup will hit new heights
The rights to host in 2027 have not yet been awarded, with a United States-Mexico joint bid, South Africa, Brazil and a Belgium-Germany-Netherlands joint bid all in the running. I predict the U.S.-Mexico bid will win, and that every metric we've ever known about the Women's World Cup will explode. I'm talking record attendance, record TV ratings -- record everything.
FIFA only just started breaking out Women's World Cup revenue separately from the men's World Cup for 2023 -- before that, we never knew how much money the Women's World Cup made. This first-ever standalone Women's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand generated $570 million, according to FIFA. I predict the 2027 World Cup will double that number, and FIFA will accordingly make prize money for the men's and women's tournament equal -- finally.
This 2023 tournament set a total attendance record of around 1.8 million, but the 2027 attendance will dwarf that too. At previous Women's World Cups, FIFA never really even sold merchandise -- I know because I desperately wanted some in 2015 and 2019, only to come up short in my search. But here in Australia and New Zealand, I saw the Visa-branded FIFA Store bags everywhere. So, I expect the merch sales alone in 2027 will be gargantuan, fueled by the record crowds and record total attendance.
Jeff Carlisle: More teams adopt the counterattacking approach
There's a tendency to think that the game's trends follow the path of the most recent World Cup winner. As such, the style of Spain seems worthy of emulation: It's a joy to watch such sublime technical ability. Only one problem, though: It's not that easy to copy. For a country to follow in Spain's footsteps takes a massive commitment of resources to institute that style from the ground up. Spain have been doing it for a while. So have Japan. Portugal seem to be in the process of committing to that approach as well, but they look like an outlier.
So what's the alternative, then? In soccer, it's always easier to destroy than to create, so you might see more top teams commit more wholeheartedly to a defend-and-counter approach, or at least be more willing to have that in their pocket. A team like Spain squeeze space well and are difficult to get the ball from, but their only defeat all tournament was against a Japan side that executed this strategy to perfection.
Less talented countries are almost forced to go this route given their lack of attacking depth, but it might suit the U.S. too given that players like Sophia Smith, Alyssa Thompson and Trinity Rodman are all dynamic in the open field and heading into their peak playing years.
Granted, it might not suit the U.S. team's psyche, but it's one worth exploring. Other countries might benefit as well.
Marissa Lordanic: Spain to go back-to-back
After Spain's victories in the U17, U20 and senior Women's World Cups over the past year alone, I think we're just seeing the beginning of the next women's football dynasty. That's all to say I'm predicting Spain to go back-to-back in 2027.
The strides that the game has taken globally will only continue with more nations outside of Europe strengthening their programs, but Spain will only get stronger, too. Ideally it's because they are able to welcome back the players who did not participate in this tournament's selection and also integrate the obvious talent they have at youth level to create a swirling mix of talent overload and give the manager (whether it's Jorge Vilda or someone else) a "good" headache.
Perhaps most terrifyingly, the majority of this current Spain squad will still be in their prime come 2027. With all of their goalkeepers under age 25, Paralluelo winning young player of the tournament at only 19 and the likes of Bonmati, Teresa Abelleira and Batlle only in their mid-20s, this Spain era could become the stuff of legends.
Joey Lynch: Better treatment for players ... and a chance for the Afghan team
One of the defining characteristics of this World Cup was the wave of players refusing to stay silent in the face of substandard treatment from their federations, and there's scant reason to think that won't continue across the coming four years. (And rightly so!) As women's football evolves and commercialises, with FIFA and national federations trumpeting their commitment to the game, players will continue to demand that their rights as workers and people are respected. Prize money, in particular, looms large over 2027, but so do equitable working conditions, coaching and facilities and, importantly, freedom from abuse.
Additionally, while they're unlikely to feature in 2027 proper, will the Afghan women's national team be given the right to compete and attempt to qualify? The side were forced to flee their homeland when the Taliban took control of the country in 2021 -- their status as woman athletes putting their lives at risk -- and they have been calling on FIFA to sanction an independent organising body that will allow them to return to international competition. However, the governing body says that it cannot overrule the Afghanistan Football Federation.
In the lead-in to 2023, players around the world showed solidarity with the likes of Canada during their battles for what they deserved. The Afghan team, and everything they stand for, would surely merit similar consideration.
Julien Laurens: As good as 2023 was, expect 2027 to be another huge step up
Did you like this World Cup in Australia? Did you think, like me, that this was the best ever, that it was the most competitive and had the most high-level football? Well, get prepared for 2027, as it will be even better!
Spain's XI in the final on Sunday had an average age of 25.7 years, with England only slightly older at 27. There is more to come from these two teams; equally, the U.S. and their bright young generation will come back stronger and hungrier than ever. Elsewhere, France have the potential to keep building under Herve Renard if he remains at the helm; Germany will have the talent to rebuild well; Australia should surf on the Matildas' wave and keep improving; Canada and Brazil will want to make up for their poor tournament.
The gap is getting smaller between the old top nations and the new ones, as we saw with Colombia, Jamaica and Nigeria, and it will keep getting smaller. The young revelations of the 2023 tournament (Paralluelo, Esmee Brugts, Caicedo) will be four years stronger and better, too.
We still have the Olympics, Euros and Copa America in between, but 2027 can't come soon enough.