What the new FIFA women’s match calendar means for players

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FIFA has approved a new women’s international match calendar for 2026-2029. While the schedule is still not optimized for maximum player rest and recovery, it shows some compromise on FIFA’s part in recognizing player workload, particularly in reducing the overall number of windows internationals from six to five.

However, FIFA is also enriching the women’s calendar with the confirmation of the Women’s Club World Cup – the inaugural tournament which will take place in January and February 2026 – and the CONCACAF Champions Cup W which will begin in August this year (Gotham FC, San Diego Wave, and Portland Thorns FC will feature in this edition). These events will significantly add to the number of elite players as these players are already in high demand between clubs and countries.

Although there was a compromise, one group felt particularly left out of the conversations. The Women’s Leagues Forum, which includes representatives from 16 national women’s leagues, expressed its displeasure in a letter to FIFA ahead of the calendar’s release, asking that they be allowed to contribute to the calendar due to its impact on World league schedules.

What are the main changes in the international match schedule?

There are three big logistical takeaways from the new calendar approach. FIFA removed an international window in September, streamlined the approach to international window types and made them apply to all confederations at the same time, and ensured that there was at least 10 weeks between a major world tournament and the following international window.

  • Type I windows last nine days, with “up to two matches allowed to be played by national teams”.
  • Type II windows last 12 days, with “up to three matches allowed to be played by national teams”.

Between the changes in the number and types of windows, the number of days national teams can spend with their federations has been reduced slightly, from 60 to 54 days. However, FIFA has also chosen to favor more Type II windows, which are longer, hoping that this delay will allow national teams to play more matches on weekends.

New international women’s showcases

Month)

Type

Number of days

Maximum number. of matches

February March

II

12

3

Apr

II

12

3

May June

I

9

2

October

I

9

2

November December

II

12

3

Totals

54

13

The current schedule favors shorter Type I windows over longer Type II windows. In 2024, there are six international windows, plus a few specific windows that provide exemptions or specific dates applicable only to the Asian Football Confederation. In the new system which will begin in 2026, each confederation will have the same type of window on the same days. This doesn’t fully address player demands for rest and recovery, but the longer windows should make things at least slightly easier if longer travel is involved.

The extended time between tournaments and the next window will have a more direct impact on the most active national teams; for example, the USWNT, which tends to schedule something every window, had six weeks between its elimination from the 2023 World Cup and its return to camp for its first post-tournament friendlies. In 2021, they had just over five weeks left between the end of the Olympics and their next camp.

What does this mean for players?

Rest and recovery were the players’ biggest priority. Earlier this week, FIFPRO, the global players’ union, posted a first person story from England and Lucy Bronze from Barcelona, ​​who said she was strangely relieved by the COVID pandemic because it meant she would have time to rest.

“We are asking for appropriate rest periods and an appropriate timetable to end the clashes,” Bronze said. “If the football calendar was organized in such a way that these clashes did not take place, it would relieve the players and we could concentrate on our game.”

According to sources informed of the changes, FIFPRO has requested mandatory off-season (28 days) and in-season (14 days) rest periods for players as part of its ongoing discussions with FIFA over the calendar. However, no mandatory rest periods were included in the final product, with FIFA rejecting the request, leaving national teams and clubs to manage the player load.

Thanks to the time difference between the United States and Thailand – location of the FIFA Council and FIFA Congress meetings which begin on Friday – the reaction has so far been muted. Most of the changes to the calendar were expected by most stakeholders, other than the confederations themselves, in one form or another, if not in the exact details. Based on conversations Athleticism While there have been changes to the FIFA calendar over the past two months, Wednesday’s result is less radical than previous plans. There will certainly be complaints, but the 2026-2029 calendar is unlikely to provoke extreme negative reactions, as FIFA understands that it must spread the wealth of frustration when it comes to a final product.

What is the Forum of Women’s Leagues?

On Tuesday, the Women’s Leagues Forum – a grouping of 16 women’s leagues and organizations, co-chaired by NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman – preemptively sent a letter to FIFA regarding the upcoming international match schedule. The letter, obtained by Athleticismindicates that the new organization twice requested a meeting with FIFA, but that the latter never organized one.

The WLF appears largely concerned by the trend towards Type II windows. For FIFA, this is a victory because it means more international matches in favorable time slots on the weekend. For the leagues, this is an obvious problem that hurts their results.

“This recommendation would create a series of detrimental problems for domestic leagues, including, to name a few, fewer weekends to play matches, more forced midweek matches, limited stadium availability , the dissatisfaction of broadcast partners and federations/confederations and tournaments/champions. -league clashes,” the letter reads. “Moreover, the health of elite/high-end players is put at risk with this schedule given the heavy load of matches they will have to play, in particularly in light of the increase in player injuries.”

Despite the organization’s request that “FIFA not make any hasty decisions at its next council,” that is exactly what happened. In terms of timing, the coalition of women’s professional leagues may have simply aligned too late to influence the FIFA process, whether directly with FIFA or through their respective confederations.

Is there an ideal international match calendar?

Given the number of stakeholders, planning is always a Herculean task. FIFA relies heavily on regional confederations to contribute to the calendar, with national federations next on the list. National leagues have no say, which can leave them frustrated with a schedule that may be at odds with their own needs. But leagues also have different requirements, making it impossible to satisfy everyone equally.

The most ideal approach for an international calendar would be a player-centric model. For example, mandatory rest periods recommended by FIFPRO are considered first for the calendar, followed by dates around these rest periods. It is highly unlikely that FIFA will seek to satisfy players first, and instead maintain a top-down approach prioritizing other stakeholders. FIFA not only wants to satisfy the confederations, but also considers windows that appeal to potential broadcast partners.

“The women’s international match schedule and subsequent changes to our regulations represent an important step in our commitment to taking women’s football to the next level by improving competitiveness across the world, particularly in regions where women’s football is less developed and protecting the well-being of the players Having agreed the schedule well in advance will be beneficial for planning purposes,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino said at the Council meeting. “We would like to thank all confederations and other stakeholders for their efforts and commitment to our common goal.”

On the women’s side, conditions vary so much between leagues and federations that some players may want more opportunities to participate in national team camps and access these resources, while others would be overloaded.

“We mainly talk about the schedule with too many games because there is a high group of players who are maybe in the spotlight a little bit more too, but there are also the players on the other end who, they could go months without games and then he is expected to play at a high level,” Bronze said. “There is a huge gap between players who are under-loaded and players who are probably heavily used. “

Gettyimages 2000842975


Berman leads the Women’s League Forum, a group of 16 women’s professional leagues around the world. (Photo by Tim Heitman, Getty Images)

What does this mean for the NWSL?

The NWSL will face many of the same challenges it has always faced working on the international calendar, particularly facing major summer tournaments. Looking to 2027 specifically, where FIFA has doubled a Type I international window just before the mandatory release date of the 2027 FIFA Women’s World Cup, NWSL clubs will be without international players destined for the tournament throughout the month of June.

Go Further

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“We’re thinking about it from the perspective of how do we make sure that we’re actually making decisions from a player welfare perspective,” Berman said. Athleticism in March. “The players are in a hurry. »

Abandoning the September window is favorable to the league and allows for more time between the conclusion of a summer tournament and the next round of international matches. This pressure on the player persists for now, and it is up to the NWSL to adapt and overcome until 2029.

(Top photo: Rittipo’s Fire/FIFA via Getty Images)



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