FIFA has set the dates for the first edition of the Women’s Club World Cup.

The first Women's Club World Cup will take place in January-February 2026, with the 16-team tournament held every four years after that, FIFA said in Wednesday's statement. Initial plans to introduce a Women’s Club World Cup were revealed in May 2021 by FIFA president Gianni Infantino, who then called it was part of a plan to "revolutionize" the women’s game.

"It’s crucial, after the huge, huge success in Australia and New Zealand at the last [FIFA] Women's World Cup, where we had two million viewers in the stadiums [and] two billion around the world, that we build on that success to create new global competitions, because national team football is obviously based on club football as well," Infantino said following today's FIFA Council meeting, which occurred in advance of the 74th FIFA Congress in Bangkok.

The council additionally unanimously approved a new international match calendar with a focus on increased opportunities for rest and recovery for both players and coaches. The overloaded calendar in the women’s game has been a growing point of contention for players as the number of injuries — specifically ACL injuries — continue to rise.

Between summer international tournaments and delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, certain European teams had to contend with the possibility of extremely condensed playing demands. That meant balancing workloads between the 2020 Olympics (held in 2021), 2022 European Championships, 2023 Women's World Cup, 2024 Olympics, and another Euros in 2025. 

When England failed to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics in December 2023, captain Leah Williamson told the Telegraph that she and her teammates were actually a bit relieved to have the summer off.

"It's horrendous that one of the first things that popped into my head about the Olympics was, 'at least they'll probably all get another two or three years on their career now, because they'll get a summer off,'" she said. "Everyone needs a rest and now they'll get one.

"Nowadays we get to October and girls are saying, 'I'm tired,' because you're carrying so much from the previous season. We are driving ourselves into the ground with it, so some sort of solution needs to be found soon, in terms of the schedule, otherwise it's not sustainable."

It should be said that the international schedule doesn’t include club responsibilities. The NWSL season kicked off this year with a number of players sidelined due to injuries picked up while playing for their national squads. This was an issue for Gotham FC, whose coach Juan Carlos Amorós called out the international schedule after USWNT forward Midge Purce suffered an ACL tear after competing in the Concacaf Women's Gold Cup.

"We lost Midge during the game which for me is a bittersweet flavor," Amorós told reporters after Purce exited Gotham's March 24th match against Portland. "By the way, it’s another player that came from the Gold Cup. Last week, it was Debinha. We are paying the consequences of a tournament that shouldn’t have happened.

"We’re talking about protecting the players, [who shouldn't] go to play an international competition after one week of preseason. We’ve seen the consequences now. We’ve got Rose, Lynn, last week it was Debinha in Kansas [City] and now we have Midge. From my experience, the clubs are going to keep paying for that competition."

On Wednesday, Infantino said that rectifying the international match calendar is another step in enhancing the level of competition across the board.

"The Women's International Match Calendar and the subsequent amendments to our regulations represent an important milestone in our pledge to take the women's game to the next level by enhancing competitiveness across the world," he said.

"This calendar is such a critical tool to ensure we continue to drive global professionalization of women’s football," added FIFA Chief Women’s Football Officer Dame Sarai Bareman in a statement. "In many parts of the world, international football provides crucial top-flight playing opportunities for female players, and this is particularly the case in nations where domestic leagues are not yet fully professional. This calendar strikes a balance to enable the domestic and international games to grow side by side, while at the same time ensuring players will have more opportunities to rest, recover, and re-train between windows and following major tournaments."

Ada Hegerberg, the Norway star and former Ballon d’Or winner, responded to FIFA president Gianni Infantino’s comments that women needed to “convince us men” to do “what we have to do.”

Infantino was asked about gender equality while addressing the media ahead of Sunday’s Women’s World Cup final between England and Spain, citing his four daughters in the discussion.

“I say to all the women — and you know I have four daughters, so I have a few at home — that you have the power to change,” he said. “Pick the right battles. Pick the right fights. You have the power to change. You have the power to convince us men what we have to do and what we don’t have to do. Just do it. With men, with FIFA, you’ll find open doors. Just push the doors.”

Players from multiple national teams that competed in the Women’s World Cup — including finalists Spain — have been in disputes with their federations over pay and unequal treatment. FIFA was set to pay players for their participation in the 2023 World Cup, but Infantino later clarified that the money would be doled out to federations under guidance to give it to players.

On Friday, Hegerberg hit back at Infantino’s comments, writing sarcastically on X that she was “working on a little presentation to convince men. Who’s in?”

Infantino added that FIFA was striving for equal pay between the men’s and women’s World Cups, but noted that it wouldn’t fix every issue.

“Equal pay at the World Cup? We are going in that direction already,” he said. “But that would not solve anything. It might be a symbol, but it would not solve anything, because it’s one month every four years and it’s a few players out of the thousands and thousands of players.

“We have to start treating women and men in the same way. Push the doors with FIFA, and do it at national level in every country, at continental level in every confederation, just keep pushing, keep the momentum going, keep dreaming, and let’s really go for a full equality.”

Hegerberg historically has been vocal about federations’ lack of respect for their women’s teams. The 2018 Ballon d’Or award winner famously skipped the 2019 World Cup and refused to play for Norway in protest over unequal treatment from the federation. The NFF agreed to pay their men’s and women’s teams equally in 2017, but Hegerberg held out until other demands were met.

This summer, she has continued to be an advocate for other nations in disputes with their federations. Jamaica and South Africa, in particular, had success on the field despite fighting for funding.

“More and more teams are here to show their best, and it’s tighter,” Hegerberg said. “You can see it from both sides: Are the best teams evolving in the right direction? But you see that smaller nations are coming up and are doing great work, putting their spirit into it, and it’s great to see.

“I really hope it gives more nations more opportunities and more and more federations follow, because I know there are many nations that need more following and more respect from their federations.”

FIFA president Gianni Infantino reportedly has left the building.

Infantino departed the Women’s World Cup less than one week into the tournament to return to Tahiti, Sky News reported. He had departed the island on July 17 to attend the start of the tournament in New Zealand, where he stayed for eight days before returning to Tahiti on July 25, as reported by Sky News based on the movements of a private jet used by the FIFA president.

After attending every match of the 2022 men’s World Cup in Qatar, Infantino already has missed four match days at the 2023 women’s tournament. And while he attended matches on the first five days of the tournament in New Zealand, he has yet to attend a match in Australia.

As ticket sales in New Zealand lagged relative to Australia, he urged fans to buy in, saying: “It’s never too late to do the right thing. Come to watch the matches.”

In contrast, Infantino attended all 64 matches at the 2022 men’s World Cup in Qatar, calling it a “privilege and pleasure” at one point during the tournament. He also largely was based out of that country in the year before the tournament “in order to deliver his presidential duties and be closer to the FIFA World Cup,” FIFA said at the time.

The FIFA president has not visited Australia since the country was awarded hosting rights with New Zealand in 2020, Sky News reported.

So far, he has seen just 12 teams from the expanded 32-team field. While FIFA has told Sky News that Infantino will return to the World Cup for group-stage games in Australia, it did not say when.

Previously, Infantino had called for this summer’s World Cup to be given the same amount of respect as the men’s tournament when broadcasters did not offer what FIFA considered reasonable money for the television rights to the tournament. He also has championed this as the “best-attended” Women’s World Cup.

Additionally, he referred to 2023 as “the year of women” on Instagram and wrote that “the future belongs to women.”