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The 9th Women's World Cup has kicked off – and it's on track to set records.

New Zealand's CJ Bott, left, and Norway's Julie Blakstad battle for possession at the first game of the Women's World Cup soccer game at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand, Thursday, July 20, 2023.
Abbie Parr
/
AP
New Zealand's CJ Bott, left, and Norway's Julie Blakstad battle for possession at the first game of the Women's World Cup soccer game at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand, Thursday, July 20, 2023.

What is it? The FIFA Women's World Cup started today in Australia and New Zealand, with new countries and more teams than ever.

  • The group stage of the international soccer tournament starts today with 32 teams. It's the biggest the tournament has ever been, with eight teams making their World Cup debut: Haiti, Republic of Ireland, Morocco, Panama, Philippines, Portugal, Vietnam and Zambia.
  • The first match started Thursday on a somber note – just hours before New Zealand and Norway kicked off the tournament, a gunman killed three people and injured six others at a nearby construction site. 
  • The teams from New Zealand and Australia secured the first wins in the first day of group play. Everyone will compete in a round-robin tournament before the top 16 teams advance to the first elimination round. 
  • What's the big deal? FIFA expects this year's tournament to be the most attended stand-alone women's sporting event in history.

  • Last week, FIFA said over one million tickets had been sold. In a social media post, FIFA president Gianni Infantino wrote: "The future is women - and thanks to the fans for supporting what will be the greatest FIFA Women's World Cup ever!"
  • Reigning champions of the last two World Cups, the U.S. team is ranked first in the world and favored to take the title again. Nine players on the U.S. roster were a part of the 2019 championship team, but American star player Megan Rapinoe has said she'll be retiring after this season. 
  • Despite the U.S. team's dominance over the last decade, it's a crowded field of tough competition, said soccer writer Sophie Downey:
  • "It's going to be really interesting with the USA because, you know, for so many years, they've been the front-runners, and they've been the out-and-out favorites. And I do think the playing field has leveled a bit...European countries have invested highly. They've brought their game up another level."

    What are people saying?

    Malia Steinmetz, midfielder for New Zealand's team celebrated the team's first World Cup win:

    Defender Steph Catley of Australia scored in their first match, earning the team its victory against Ireland.

    What's next?

  • The tournament continues Friday, local time, with games between Nigeria and Canada, the Philippines plays Switzerland, and Spain goes up against Costa Rica.
  • The U.S. team plays its first game against Vietnam on Saturday afternoon, local time.
  • Learn more:

  • Co-host New Zealand stuns Norway to open the Women's World Cup
  • 5 storylines to watch as the Women's World Cup kicks off
  • As the Women's World Cup kicks off, the U.S. hopes to win its third in a row
  • Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Kai McNamee
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