LONDON • Fifa has approved the expansion of the Women's World Cup from the existing 24 teams to 32 for the 2023 edition, reopening the bidding process for potential hosts.
The quadrennial tournament has steadily increased the number of participating teams from 12 in its maiden edition in 1991 to 24 teams in the last two editions.
In an official statement, football's world governing body said on Wednesday: "The Fifa Council has unanimously agreed to a proposal to expand the number of teams taking part in the women's World Cup from 24 to 32, with effect as of the next edition in 2023."
The expansion will mean it will now be on a par with the men's tournament, which has had 32 participating teams since 1998.
Nine countries have submitted bids to host the 2023 edition. They are Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa and South Korea.
The initial deadline for submitting the bid documents was in April, with a host due to be appointed next March by the Fifa Council, but the timeline has now been updated after the expansion.
The new deadline for bid submissions will be in December, with the hosts set to be appointed next May.
Fifa will send a circular next month to the nine member associations that submitted bids as well as any other eligible member associations keen on hosting the event.
Fifa president Gianni Infantino said the "astounding" success of last month's tournament in France, where the United States were crowned world champions for a record-extending fourth time, and the incentive for more countries to qualify were key factors in the decision to expand the tournament to 32 teams.
"This is the time to keep the momentum going and take concrete steps to foster the growth of women's football," the Swiss-Italian added. "It means dozens more member associations will organise their women's football programmes knowing that they have a realistic chance of qualifying."
Countries submitted bids to host the 2023 Women's World Cup - Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa and South Korea.
Thailand remain the only South-east Asian team to have made it to the Women's World Cup, having participated in the last two editions. But the expansion means Vietnam, who are now ranked 35th and four spots ahead of the Thais, and 46th-ranked Myanmar could also stand a realistic chance at coming through the qualifying stage.
Defender Janine van Wyk, who was part of South Africa's squad in France, felt it was a positive move "to grow the women's game", tweeting: "This also gives players in their respective countries an opportunity to be scouted for big clubs abroad."