Women's association football, usually known as women's football or women's soccer, is the most prominent team sport played by women around the globe. It is played at the professional level in numerous countries throughout the world and 176 national teams participate internationally.
The history of women's football has seen major competitions being launched at both the national and international levels. Women's football has faced many struggles throughout its history. Although its first golden age occurred in the United Kingdom in the early 1920s, with matches attracting large crowds (one match achieved over 50,000 spectators), The Football Association initiated a ban in 1921 that disallowed women's football games from taking place on the grounds used by its member clubs. This ban remained in effect until July 1971.
Women may have been playing football for as long as the game has existed. Evidence shows that a similar game (cuju) was played by women during the Han Dynasty (25–220 CE). Two female figures are depicted in Han Dynasty frescoes, playing Tsu Chu. There are, however, a number of opinions about the accuracy of dates, the earliest estimates at 5000 BCE. Reports of an annual match being played in Scotland are reported as early as the 1790s. The first match recorded by the Scottish Football Association took place in 1892 in Glasgow. In England, the first recorded game of football between women took place in 1895.
Association football, the modern game, also has documented early involvement of women. In Europe, it is possible that 12th-century French women played football as part of that era's folk games. An annual competition in Mid-Lothian, Scotland during the 1790s is reported, too. In 1863, football governing bodies introduced standardized rules to prohibit violence on the pitch, making it more socially acceptable for women to play.
The most well-documented early European team was founded by activist Nettie Honeyball in England in 1894. It was named the British Ladies' Football Club. Honeyball and those like her paved the way for women's football. However the women's game was frowned upon by the British football associations, and continued without their support. It has been suggested that this was motivated by a perceived threat to the 'masculinity' of the game.
Women's football became popular on a large scale at the time of the First World War, when employment in heavy industry spurred the growth of the game, much as it had done for men fifty years earlier. A team from England played a team from Ireland on Boxing Day 1917 in front of a crowd of 20,000 spectators. The most successful team of the era was Dick, Kerr's Ladies of Preston, England. The team played in the first women's international matches in 1920, against a team from Paris, France, in April, and also made up most of the England team against a Scottish Ladies XI in 1920, winning 22-0.
Despite being more popular than some men's football events (one match saw a 53,000 strong crowd), women's football in England suffered a blow in 1921 when The Football Association outlawed the playing of the game on Association members' pitches, on the grounds that the game (as played by women) was distasteful. Some speculated that this may have also been due to envy of the large crowds that women's matches attracted. This led to the formation of the English Ladies Football Association and play moved to rugby grounds.
In August 1917, a tournament was launched for female munition workers' teams in northeast England. Officially titled the Tyne Wear & Tees Alfred Wood Munition Girls Cup, it was popularly known as The Munitionettes' Cup. The first winners of the trophy were Blyth Spartans, who defeated Bolckow Vaughan 5–0 in a replayed final tie at Middlesbrough on 18 May 1918 in front of a crowd of 22,000. The tournament ran for a second year in season 1918–19, the winners being the ladies of Palmer's shipyard in Jarrow, who defeated Christopher Brown's of Hartlepool 1–0 at St James' Park in Newcastle on 22 March 1919.
Following the FA ban on women's teams on 5 December 1921, the English Ladies' Football Association was formed. A silver cup was donated by the first president of the association, Len Bridgett. A total of 24 teams entered the first competition in the spring of 1922. The winners were Stoke Ladies who beat Doncaster and Bentley Ladies 3-1 on 24 June 1922.
In 1937 and 1938, the Dick, Kerr's Ladies F.C. played Edinburgh City Girls in the "Championship of Great Britain and the World". Dick Kerr won the 1937 and 38 competitions with 5-1 score lines. The 1939 competition however was a more organised affair and the Edinburgh City Girls beat Dick Kerr in Edinburgh 5-2. The City Girls followed this up with a 7-1 demolition of Glasgow Ladies Ladies in Falkirk to take the title.
The English Women's FA was formed in 1969 (as a result of the increased interest generated by the 1966 World Cup), and the FA's ban on matches being played on members' grounds was finally lifted in 1971. In the same year, UEFA recommended that the women's game should be taken under the control of the national associations in each country.
In 1970 an Italian ladies football federation, known as Federazione Femminile Italiana Giuoco Calcio or FFIGC, ran a "World Championships" tournament in Rome supported by the Martini and Rossi strong wine manufacturers, entirely without the involvement of FIFA or any of the common National associations. This event was at least partly played by clubs. But a somewhat more successful World Championships with national teams was hosted by Mexico the following year. The final (won by Denmark) was played at the famous Estadio Azteca, the largest arena in the entire Americas north of the Panama Canal at the time, in front of no less than 112.500 attenders.
During the 1970s, Italy became the first country to introduce professional women's football players, on a part-time basis. Italy was also the first Country to import foreign Footballers from other Europeans countries, which raised the profile of the league. The most prominent players during that era included Sussanne Augustesen ( Denmark), Rose Reilly and Edna Neillis (Scotland), Anne O'Brian (Ireland) and Sanchez Freire (Spain). In 1985, the United States national soccer team was formed and in 1989, Japan became the first country to have a semi-professional women's football league, the L. League - still in existence today.
At the beginning of the 21st century, women's football, like men's football, is growing in both popularity and participation as well as more professional leagues worldwide. From the inaugural FIFA Women's World Cup tournament held in 1991 to the 1,194,221 tickets sold for the 1999 Women's World Cup visibility and support of women's professional football has increased around the globe.
However, as in numerous other sports, women's pay and opportunities are much lower in comparison with professional male football players. Major league and international women's football have far less television and media coverage than the men's equivalent. The popularity and participation in women's football continues to grow.
Unofficial women's European tournaments for national teams were held in Italy in 1969  and 1979 and won by Italy and Denmark, but there was no formal international tournament until 1982 when the first UEFA European Competition For Representative Women's Teams was launched. The 1984 Finals was won by Sweden is commonly referred to as the Women's Euro. Norway won, in the 1987 Finals. Since then, the UEFA Women's Championship has been dominated by Germany, which has won eight out of the 10 events to date. The only other teams to win are Norway, which won in 1993, and the reigning champions, the Netherlands, which won at home in 2017.
Prior to the 1991 establishment of the FIFA Women's World Cup, several unofficial world tournaments took place in the 1970s and 1980s, including the FIFA's Women's Invitation Tournament 1988, which was hosted in China.
The first Women's World Cup was held in the People's Republic of China, in November 1991, and was won by the United States (USWNT). The third Cup, held in the United States in June and July 1999, drew worldwide television interest and a final in front of a record-setting 90,000+ Pasadena crowd, where the United States won 5–4 on penalty kicks against China. The US are the reigning champions, having won in Canada in 2015, and in France, in 2019.
The Copa Libertadores de Fútbol Femenino (Women's Libertadores Cup) is the international women's football club competition for teams that play in CONMEBOL nations. The competition started in the 2009 season in response to the increased interest in women's football. It is the only CONMEBOL club competition for women, and it is sometimes called the Copa Libertadores Femenina.
Since 1996, a Women's Football Tournament has been staged at the Olympic Games. Unlike in the men's Olympic Football tournament (based on teams of mostly under-23 players), the Olympic women's teams do not have restrictions due to professionalism or age.
England and other British Home Nations are not eligible to compete as separate entities because the International Olympic Committee does not recognise their FIFA status as separate teams in competitions. The participation of UK men's and women's sides at the 2012 Olympic tournament was a bone of contention between the four national associations in the UK from 2005, when the Games were awarded to London, to 2009. England was strongly in favour of unified UK teams, while Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland were opposed, fearing adverse consequences for the independent status of the Home Nations within FIFA. At one stage it was reported that England alone would field teams under the UK banner (officially "Great Britain") for the 2012 Games. However, both the men's and women's Great Britain teams eventually fielded some players from the other home nations. (See Football at the 2012 Summer Olympics – Women's tournament)
After the lifting of the F.A. ban, the now defunct Women's Football Association held its first national knockout cup in 1970–71. It was called the Mitre Trophy which became the FA Women's Cup in 1993. Southampton WFC was the inaugural winner. From 1983 to 1994 Doncaster Belles reached ten out of 11 finals, winning six of them. Chelsea are the current holders and Arsenal are the most successful club with a record 14 wins. Despite tournament sponsorship by major companies, entering the cup actually costs clubs more than they get in prize money. In 2015 it was reported that even if Notts County had won the tournament outright the paltry £8,600 winnings would leave them out of pocket. The winners of the men's FA Cup in the same year received £1.8 million, with teams not even reaching the first round proper getting more than the women's winners.
In 2002, FIFA inaugurated a women's youth championship, officially called the FIFA U-19 Women's World Championship. The first event was hosted by Canada. The final was an all-CONCACAF affair, with the USA defeating the host Canadians 1-0 with an extra-time golden goal. The second event was held in Thailand in 2004 and won by Germany. The age limit was raised to 20, starting with the 2006 event held in Russia. Demonstrating the increasing global reach of the women's game, the winners of this event were North Korea. The tournament was renamed the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup, effective with the 2008 edition won by the US in Chile. The current champions are Japan, who won in France in 2018.
In 2008, FIFA instituted an under-17 world championship. The inaugural event, held in New Zealand, was won by North Korea. The current champions at this level are Spain, who won in Uruguay in 2018.
In the United States, the intercollegiate sport began from physical education programs that helped establish organized teams. After sixty years of trying to gain social acceptance women's football was introduced to the college level. In the late 1970s, women's club teams started to appear on college campus, but it wasn't until the 1980s that they started to gain recognition and gained a varsity status. Brown University was the first college to grant full varsity level status to their women's soccer team. The Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) sponsored the first regional women's soccer tournament at college in the US, which was held at Brown University. The first national level tournament was held at Colorado College, which gained official AIAW sponsorship in 1981. The 1990s saw greater participation mainly due to the Title IX of 23 June 1972, which increased school's budgets and their addition of women's scholarships.
"Currently there are over 700 intercollegiate women's soccer teams playing for many types and sizes of colleges and universities. This includes colleges and universities that are members of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), and the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA)."
In 2004, FIFA President Sepp Blatter suggested that women footballers should "wear tighter shorts and low cut shirts... to create a more female aesthetic" and attract more male fans. His comment was criticized as sexist by numerous people involved with women's football and several media outlets worldwide.
In September 2008, FC de Rakt women's team (FC de Rakt DA1) in the Netherlands made international headlines by swapping its old kit for a new one featuring short skirts and tight-fitting shirts. This innovation, which had been requested by the team itself, was initially vetoed by the Royal Dutch Football Association on the grounds that according to the rules of the game shorts must be worn by all players, both male and female; but this decision was reversed when it was revealed that the FC de Rakt team were wearing hot pants under their skirts, and were therefore technically in compliance. Denying that the kit change was merely a publicity stunt, club chairman Jan van den Elzen told Reuters:
The girls asked us if they could make a team and asked specifically to play in skirts. We said we'd try but we didn't expect to get permission for that. We've seen reactions from Belgium and Germany already saying this could be something for them. Many girls would like to play in skirts but didn't think it was possible.
21-year-old team captain Rinske Temming said:
We think they are far more elegant than the traditional shorts and furthermore they are more comfortable because the shorts are made for men. It's more about being elegant, not sexy. Female football is not so popular at the moment. In the Netherlands there's an image that it's more for men, but we hope that can change.
In June 2011, Iran forfeited an Olympic qualification match in Jordan, after trying to take to the field in hijabs and full body suits. FIFA awarded a default 3–0 win to Jordan, explaining that the Iranian kits were "an infringement of the Laws of the Game", due to safety concerns. The decision provoked strong criticism from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad while Iranian officials alleged that the actions of the Bahraini match delegate had been politically motivated. In July 2012, FIFA approved the wearing of hijab in future matches.
The 1991 FIFA Women's World Cup was the inaugural FIFA Women's World Cup, the world championship for women's national association football teams. It took place in Guangdong, China from 16 to 30 November 1991. FIFA, football's international governing body selected China as host nation as Guangdong had hosted a prototype world championship three years earlier, the 1988 FIFA Women's Invitation Tournament. Matches were played in the state capital, Guangzhou, as well as in Foshan, Jiangmen and Zhongshan. The competition was sponsored by Mars, Incorporated. With FIFA still reluctant to bestow their "World Cup" brand, the tournament was officially known as the 1st FIFA World Championship for Women's Football for the M&M's Cup.It was won by the United States, whose captain April Heinrichs formed a forward line dubbed the "triple–edged sword" with Carin Jennings and Michelle Akers-Stahl. Jennings was named player of the tournament while Akers-Stahl's ten goals won the Golden Shoe. The United States defeated Norway 2–1 in the final in front of a crowd of 65,000 people at Guangzhou's Tianhe Stadium. Total attendance for the tournament was 510,000, an average per match of 19,615. In the opening match at the same stadium, Norway was defeated 4–0 by hosts China. Chinese defender Ma Li scored the first goal in Women's World Cup history, while goalkeeper Zhong Honglian, also of China, posted the first official "clean sheet" in the tournament.
The 12 qualified teams were divided into three groups of four (A to C). The top two teams and the two best third-place finishers from the three groups advanced to the knockout round of eight teams. For only the first edition of the Women's World Cup, all matches lasted only 80 minutes, instead of the typical 90, and two points were awarded for a win (both of which would change in 1995).1995 FIFA Women's World Cup
The 1995 FIFA Women's World Cup, the second edition of the FIFA Women's World Cup, was held in Sweden and won by Norway. The tournament featured 12 women's national teams from six continental confederations. The 12 teams were drawn into three groups of four and each group played a round-robin tournament. At the end of the group stage, the top two teams and two best third-ranked teams advanced to the knockout stage, beginning with the quarter-finals and culminating with the final at Råsunda Stadium on 18 June 1995.
Sweden became the first country to host both men's and women's World Cup, having hosted the men's in 1958.
Australia, Canada, and England made their debuts in the competition. The tournament also hosted as qualification for the 1996 Olympic games, with the eight quarter-finalists being invited to the Olympics. In the second edition of the Women's World Cup, matches were lengthened to the standard 90 minutes, and three points were awarded for a win.2007 FIFA Women's World Cup
The 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup, the fifth edition of the FIFA Women's World Cup, was an international association football competition for women held in China from 10 to 30 September 2007. Originally, China was to host the 2003 edition, but the outbreak of SARS in that country forced that event to be moved to the United States. FIFA immediately granted the 2007 event to China, which meant that no new host nation was chosen competitively until the voting was held for the 2011 Women's World Cup.
The tournament opened with a record-breaking match in Shanghai, as Germany beat Argentina 11–0 to register the biggest win and the highest scoring match in Women's World Cup history, records which stood until 2019. The tournament ended with Germany defeating Brazil 2–0 in the final, having never surrendered a goal in the entire tournament. The Germans became the first national team in FIFA Women's World Cup history to retain their title.
The golden goal rule for extra time in knockout matches was eliminated by FIFA, although none of the matches went to extra time or required a penalty shootout.2018 Women's National League (Ireland)
The 2018 Women's National League, known for sponsorship reasons as the Continental Tyres Women's National League, was the eighth season of the Women's National League, the highest women's association football league in the Republic of Ireland. Limerick W.F.C. competed for the first time. Wexford Youths were the winners.Brandi Chastain
Brandi Denise Chastain (born July 21, 1968) is an American retired soccer player, two-time FIFA Women's World Cup champion, two-time Olympic gold-medalist, coach, and sports broadcaster. She played for the United States national team from 1988–2004. In her 192 caps on the team, she scored 30 goals playing primarily in the defender and midfielder positions. She scored a World Cup-winning penalty shootout goal against China in the 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup final.
Chastain played professionally for Shiroki FC in the Japan Women's Football League, the San Jose CyberRays of the Women's United Soccer Association, FC Gold Pride of Women's Professional Soccer, and California Storm of Women's Premier Soccer League.
Chastain was named to the USWNT All-Time Best XI in 2013. In March 2017, she was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame. In 2018 she was inducted into the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame.Elitettan
Elitettan (English: The Elite First) is the second highest division of Swedish women's football. Contested by 14 clubs, it operates on a system of promotion and relegation with Damallsvenskan and Division 1. Seasons run from April to October, with teams playing 26 matches each in the season. The league was created in 2013.FIFA Women's World Rankings
The FIFA Women's World Rankings for football were introduced in 2003, with the first rankings published in March of that year, as a follow-on to the existing Men's FIFA World Rankings. They attempt to compare the strength of internationally active women's national teams at any given time.FIFA World Player of the Year
The FIFA World Player of the Year was an association football award presented annually by the sport's governing body, FIFA, between 1991 and 2015. Coaches and captains of international teams and media representatives selected the player they deem to have performed the best in the previous calendar year.
Originally a single award for the world's best men's player, parallels awards for men and women were awarded from 2001–2009. The men's award was subsumed into the FIFA Ballon d'Or in 2010 while the women's award remained until 2015. After 2015 both men's and women's awards became part of The Best FIFA Football Awards.
During the men's era, Brazilian players won 8 out of 19 years, compared to three wins – the second most – for French players. In terms of individual players, Brazil again led with five, followed by Italy and Portugal with two each. The youngest winner was Ronaldo, who won at 20 years old in 1996, and the oldest winner was Fabio Cannavaro, who won aged 33 in 2006. Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane each won the award three times, while Ronaldo and Ronaldinho were the only players to win in successive years. From 2010 to 2015, the equivalent men's award was the FIFA Ballon d'Or, following a merging of the FIFA World Player of the Year and the France Football Ballon d'Or awards. Since 2016, the awards have been replaced by the Best FIFA Men's Player and the Best FIFA Women's Player awards.Eight women's footballers – three Germans, three Americans, one Brazilian, and one Japanese – have won the award. Marta, the youngest recipient at age 20 in 2006, has won five successive awards, the most of any player. Birgit Prinz won three times in a row and Mia Hamm won twice in a row. The oldest winner is Nadine Angerer, who was 35 when she won in 2013; she is also the only goalkeeper of either sex to win.Four Nations Tournament (women's football)
The Four Nations Tournament is an invitational women's football tournament taking place in various cities of China since 1998. Since 2002, it has been held every year except for 2010. United States, Norway, China, North Korea, and Canada are the only winners of various editions of this tournament. The United States and China have been the most successful, winning seven editions of the tournament.Frauen-Bundesliga
The Frauen-Bundesliga (English: Women's Federal League), currently known as the Allianz Frauen-Bundesliga due to sponsorship by Allianz, is the top level of league competition for women's association football in Germany. In 1990 the German Football Association (DFB) created the German Women's Bundesliga, based on the model of the men's Bundesliga. It was first played with north and south divisions, but in 1997 the groups were merged to form a uniform league. The league currently consists of twelve teams and the seasons usually last from late summer to the end of spring with a break in the winter.
In the UEFA Women's Champions League, the Frauen-Bundesliga is the most successful league with a total of nine titles from four clubs, with 1. FFC Frankfurt winning the most titles of any club.Geography of women's association football
The following article gives a list of Women's association football confederations, sub-confederations and associations around the world.
For international competitions see the article International competitions in women's football.List of women's association football clubs
This is a partial list of women's association football club teams from all over the world sorted by the confederation they reside in. Only teams playing at the highest level in each country are shown; for clubs playing at lower divisions, see the separate articles.
Some clubs do not play in the league of the country in which they are located, but in a neighboring country's league. Where this is the case the club is noted as such.List of women's association football clubs in England
All women's leagues in England are part of a pyramid structure with the FA WSL being the pinnacle. Leagues become gradually more regional the further down the pyramid you go.
The Women's football in England pyramid has 10 levels upon it.List of women's footballers with 100 or more international goals
Association football at the professional level is a low scoring sport (see article Association football for more detail). An athlete in association football, or soccer in short, can score 100 goals in international matches by playing a forward position, maintaining a high-level of success in scoring for a long period of usually more than 10 years. This page lists the highly accomplished top all-time female goal scorers in official international football matches for her country. The world governing body FIFA calls this elite group the Century Club.
For every soccer player, especially a player not playing in a forward position, a measure of her accomplishment is the number of times she played for her national team, which shows her value to the team as a competitor on the field. See Most capped international women footballers. The world governing body FIFA calls that elite group the Century Club.List of women's national association football teams
This is a complete list of national teams in women's association football, arranged alphabetically within their confederations.SheBelieves Cup
The SheBelieves Cup is an invitational women's association football tournament held in the United States in late February or early March. In its first three years (2016, 2017 and 2018), it was contested by the same four teams: the United States, England, France, and Germany. In 2019 the tournament line up changed for the first time to Brazil, England, Japan and the United States.Steph Houghton
Stephanie Jayne Houghton (; born 23 April 1988) is an English footballer who both plays for and captains Manchester City and the England national team.Since her debut in 2007, Houghton has played over 100 times for the England national team. She suffered serious injuries immediately before the 2007 World Cup and Euro 2009, but recovered to play in the 2011 World Cup and Euro 2013. She was made England captain in January 2014.
Houghton came to prominence at the 2012 London Olympics, scoring three goals in Great Britain's four games, including winners against New Zealand and Brazil. At club level Houghton started at Sunderland in her native North East England before moving on to Leeds United in 2007 then Arsenal Ladies in 2010. An extremely versatile player, she broke into the Sunderland team as a striker before moving back into midfield and later into defence.
Houghton was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2016 New Year Honours for services to football.Tournament of Nations
The Tournament of Nations is a global invitational tournament for national teams in women's association football hosted by the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) in several American cities. The inaugural tournament was held in 2017. USSF indicated it will be held only in non-World Cup and non-Olympic years. Starting in 2021 Volkswagen will become the title sponsor for the Tournament of Nations.Yongchuan International Tournament
The Yongchuan International Tournament (Chinese: 永川国际女子足球邀请赛) is an invitational women's football tournament, originated in another women's football tournament Four Nations Tournament. It is staged annually in October in Yongchuan District, Chongqing, China.
Women's association football
International women's association football
and the Caribbean
International women's club football
AFC – None
CAF – None
and the Caribbean
CONCACAF – None
OFC – None
See also: International men's club football
|National Association of |
International association football
and the Caribbean