Women’s World Cup is Brazil-bound — Q&A with Savannah DeMelo

The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie Peterson, May 20, 2024

Happy Soccer Monday! In the early-morning hours on Thursday, the FIFA Congress voted (for the first time) on the host of the 2027 Women’s World Cup. To absolutely no one’s surprise, the host will be Brazil.

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There were just two bids for the event in the end: Brazil’s and a joint bid among Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.

The United States pulled out of the running last month, choosing instead to focus on 2031. It seemed like the right choice given the possibility of a very congested soccer/sports schedule in the country with the 2026 men’s World Cup and the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles. There would be competition for sponsorship dollars, and it would be tough financially for fans to go to multiple events that close together.

South Africa pulled out in November and also said it was planning to resubmit its bid in 2031.

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The vote was the first for a Women’s World Cup that involved the entire FIFA Congress — representatives from each of the federations or, as FIFA calls them, member associations. Previously, the FIFA Council decided the hosts. Brazil got 119 votes, while the BNG bid received 78 votes.

Brazil’s bid book, titled “As Natural as Football,” emphasized an event that will inspire women and girls across South America, as well as raise awareness of issues such as sustainability, social responsibility and inclusion.

Here’s what the legendary Formiga has to say after the vote:

“I’m fulfilling another dream in my life. Even if I’m not on the pitch, this is the result of hard work not only by me, but also by the trailblazers in Brazil. We experienced tough moments in terms of bans. We have ex-footballers who were arrested because they were playing football. And those footballers were the ones who, with grit and determination, overcame those bans and earned their freedom, so that today myself and so many other girls have the freedom to play football without those bans. Of course, there is still some prejudice in our country, as well as sexism. But, as I always say, nothing happens by chance. And if we’ve achieved this today, it goes to show to the Brazilian people and to everyone around the world, that women know how to play football. We just need opportunities, facilities and a lot of respect and care.”

The 2016 Olympic soccer tournament, both men’s and women’s, was held in stadiums across Brazil. Belo Horizonte, Manaus (in the Amazon), Brasilia (a fascinating master-planned capital) and of course Rio, where the final was held at the Maracana, the nation’s iconic soccer stadium. The bid book included 10 host cities.

The 2027 World Cup will likely include these stadiums and more. And therein lies one of the major drawbacks for this tournament: \the travel. Manaus is a four-plus-hour flight from Rio. My guess is that organizers will take a cue from last year’s World Cup, which had group matches either in New Zealand or Australia, and cluster matches. The good news is flights in Brazil are relatively cheap.

But that brings up another issue: Brazil emphasized sustainability in its bid. But thousands of fans flying all of the country all summer runs counter to that narrative.

However, hosting the Women’s World Cup is important for the game in Brazil. As Formiga referenced, it was not so long ago that women’s soccer was banned in the country.

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My colleague in Brazil, Mauricio Savarese, went to a favela for a story on young girls and football. I highly recommend it.

The Athletic’s Meg Linehan took a deep dive into Brazil’s bid.

ESPN reported that Arsenal and Chelsea are set to tour the US this summer, and matches are scheduled against NWSL clubs Gotham and the Spirit.

The Minnesota Aurora are pushing again for an NWSL expansion team.

The Athletic’s Katie Whyatt wrote about Emma Hayes’ legacy in the WSL.

Sandra Herrera of CBS Sports took a crack at some midseason NWSL awards.

ESPN’s Jeff Kassouf considered the Portland Thorns’ roller-coaster season.

The Washington Post featured the Spirit’s Tara McKeown.

A look at a possible women’s soccer stadium in Cleveland.

Jackie Gutierrez wrote about the growth of the Wave for Forbes.

Nice feature on Gotham goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger.

Hayes relieved after WSL title with Chelsea.

More details about the Women’s Club World Cup, coming in 2026.

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Five at The IX

If you missed it, Racing Louisville played to a WILD draw with the Kansas City Current on Saturday night. Definitely NWSL After Dark. It was back and forth. Just when it appeared the Current had won, Savannah DeMelo scored the game-tying goal in well into stoppage time. There were eight minutes of stoppage time added; DeMelo’s goal came 13 minutes in.

And that wasn’t the only controversy: There was a drop ball late in stoppage time that appeared to go to the Current, but possession went to Louisville.

Current coach Vlatko Andonovski said: “We deserved to win the game. I thought that we created enough, and it’s just unfortunate that the game ended up the way it did.”

The referees’ report said: “During the planned eight minutes of stoppage, there were two goals, a substitution and multiple injuries that extended the total amount of stoppage time.”

In the end, DeMelo was happy to get the point on the road for Lousiville, which leads the league with six draws this season. Here’s what DeMelo said after the game:

Question: Your thoughts on what a crazy game that was and the way you finished it?

DeMelo: It’s so hard because to experience that atmosphere, but for everybody in the stands to be against you, it’s a crazy, crazy experience. So just the fact that we came out and played the way we did, going up a goal, going down a goal, then going up or going down by another goal and then just coming back. I think it just shows what this team is made of, and it’s going to be very, very hard to beat us. I think we’re just getting better and better.

Question: Can you like walk us through how that final play happens? At what point are you like, I’m trying to go all the way here and I’m shooting?

DeMelo: To be honest, I kind of blacked out a little bit with it all. But I just remember two defenders kind of coming at me. And I’m a dribbler, so I wanted to dribble and get myself in a dangerous spot where they can’t foul me. And then I looked up. I saw the keeper was kind of waiting for my shot. And then I’m like, OK, I’m going to shoot it. I wanted to keep it low because I think I had a shot kind of similar to that in the first half or in the beginning of the second half and I kind of put a little bit too high. So I wanted to place it. When I saw it hit the net, I had no words, and it was awesome hearing everybody boo. And then just having my teammates close to me, seeing the staff, seeing the girls on the bench, it was just an amazing moment.

Question: Have you scored a similar goal to that at all?

DeMelo: I don’t think so. I do remember scoring a goal when I was at USC and we were playing UCLA, and it was the opposite, though. I think I scored in like the first three minutes of the game. So a little bit of the same, but very different. So I think that was a first for sure.

Question: It looks like your goal in the 13th minute of stoppage time was the second-latest goal in second-half stoppage time in NWSL history. So can you talk a little bit about playing to the whistle when you only had eight minutes of stoppage time and your contribution and your latest contribution to NWSL After Dark chaos?

DeMelo: I know Emma talked about it, but we have a word and that’s together. And I think throughout the whole game you can just see that we are together as one, from the staff to players on the bench to the players on the field, from the defense to the offense. We played together. And when that ball went in [Current goal in stoppage], like we all knew, there were still eight minutes left in that game and we knew that we were going to get more chances. I had a couple shots. Our defense was playing lights-out. It’s just about that one chance and just being clinical in those opportunities. That’s what we did, and I think that’s why we’re walking away with a point.

Question: Is this something you think you can build momentum on?

DeMelo: I mean, it’s such a long season. So I think we just want to take it one game at a time. But that’s a huge momentum going into the next game. And I think we took a lot of momentum from the half we played against Spirit last game. I think we’re just growing and growing and growing. Playing at such a tough environment like this against such an amazing team with an amazing staff. Like it’s just going to keep us confident and keep us going. We have Chicago next, so we’re going to rest up, recover and then get ready for the next game.

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Written by Annie Peterson