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New Zealand to stage landmark FIFA Women’s World Cup play-off tournament

New Zealand will host the first-ever play-off tournament for the FIFA Women’s World Cup, with Hamilton’s Waikato Stadium and Auckland’s North Harbour Stadium (pictured) selected to stage matches from February 17-23 next year.

The tournament will feature 10 teams, who will compete for the final three slots at the 2023 Women’s World Cup. The World Cup itself will take place from July 20 to August 20, 2023 in Australia and New Zealand.

The 10 teams will come from Asia (two), Africa (two), North and Central America and the Caribbean (two), South America (two), Europe (one) and Oceania (one). Thailand and Chinese Taipei have already confirmed their participation, with the remaining eight teams to qualify through their respective continental tournaments.

New Zealand’s national team will also play three friendly matches around the event against the top-seeded team and another “high-profile guest team”.

Sarai Bareman, FIFA’s chief women’s football officer, said: “The decision in 2019 to expand the FIFA Women’s World Cup from 24 to 32 teams has already had a significant impact on the wider growth and development of the women’s game. More nations now have the chance to play on the world’s biggest stage and this all starts with the play-off tournament.

“I cannot wait for fans to get their first taste of what to expect later next year when the play-off commences before the biggest women’s sporting event in the world kicks-off in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand on 20 July 2023.”

Jane Paterson, chief operating officer for the 2023 Women’s World Cup in New Zealand, added: “It will provide FIFA, host cities, stadiums, training sites and government the opportunity to test readiness of operations, infrastructure and resources.

“Organising a competition the size and scale of the FIFA Women’s World Cup is a hugely exciting opportunity, so to host the play-off tournament and test readiness will be a real asset.”

Waikato Stadium will also be a host venue during the World Cup. Auckland will stage matches, with Eden Park to host the opening fixture.

China, Japan, South Korea, Philippines, Vietnam, France, Spain, Sweden and Denmark have already secured their place at the tournament, alongside the co-hosts.

Image: Ingolfson