Everything you need to know about the inaugural CONCACAF W Gold Cup

February 20, 2024
Today’s special edition is all about the inaugural CONCACAF W Gold Cup, a brand-new elite competition featuring some of the best women’s soccer teams in the world, including the No. 2 USWNT and No. 10 CanWNT.
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Everything you need to know about the inaugural CONCACAF W Gold Cup
Source: Roy K. Miller/ISI Photos/Getty Images

👀 How it works

The first-ever W Gold Cup is CONCACAF’s new flagship tourney for women’s national teams in North America, Central America, and the Caribbean (CONCACAF) and guest teams from South America (CONMEBOL).

  • There has been a CONCACAF Gold Cup in men’s soccer since 1991, but the corresponding women’s tourney was only approved in 2020. Better late than never.

In terms of how it works, 15 CONCACAF and CONMEBOL teams initially qualified for the W Gold Cup, but now that the preliminary round is over, we’re onto the 12-team group stage.

  • The group stage follows a round-robin format where each squad will play each team in their group once. The top two teams in each group advance to the quarter-finals, as do the two-best third-place teams. From there, it's a traditional single-elimination tourney.
  • The games will be played across four venues: Dignity Health Sports Park (Carson, California), Snapdragon Stadium (San Diego, California), Shell Energy Stadium (Houston, Texas) and BMO Stadium (LA, California).

In addition to the World Cup and Olympics, these continental tournaments are an essential part of international soccer’s DNA. The scope and scale of the new W Gold Cup format represents a solid investment for the CONCACAF women and puts this tournament on par with its similar competitions across the world.

  • And because four of the 15 teams — the USWNT, Canada, No. 11 Brazil, and No. 23 Colombia — have already clinched their tickets to Paris, the W Gold Cup is also a crucial opportunity for players to prove they’re worthy of a spot on their country’s elite (and notoriously small) Olympic squads. No pressure, no diamonds.


Forward Sophia Smith and midfielder Lindsey Horan embrace on the pitch.
Source: Robin Alam/USSF/Getty Images

The GIST: The Americans boast a nearly pristine record in CONCACAF competitions, winning 14 of the 15 regional championships they’ve participated in, but the USWNT is in a transition period, notably shaking up their roster following their earliest-ever exit at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup (WWC).

The background: The USWNT is still operating under interim coach Twila Kilgore while new head coach Emma Hayes completes her contract with Chelsea FC in England’s Women’s Super League. Hayes will not officially lead the Americans until the Paris Olympics, but is working in conjunction with Kilgore in the meantime, weighing in on pivotal decisions, including roster cuts.

  • The USWNT W Gold Cup squad is young, providing less-experienced players a chance to prove their mettle while leaving veterans, like forward Alex Morgan, behind.
  • Kilgore insists “nobody is out of the mix” when it comes to the Paris Olympics, but this roster is the first indication that a generational shift is underway on the USWNT.

Players to watch: Following the iconic Megan Rapinoe’s retirement last fall, the pressure’s on players like midfielder Lindsey Horan and forward Sophia Smith to step into larger leadership roles on and off the field.

  • And to the delight of all American fans, forward Mal Swanson is back in training camp for the first time since tearing her patella tendon last April, but will stay off the game pitch as she continues to work back to full fitness. The road to Paris is long and winding.

🇨🇦 CanWNT

CanWNT celebrates after forward Jordyn Huitema’s goal.
Source: Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

The GIST: Entering the year on a three-game win streak, the red and white are preparing to defend their Olympic title this summer, a tall task following their disappointing performance at the most recent WWC and legendary captain Christine Sinclair’s retirement.

The background: Like the U.S., CanWNT is evolving, awarding W Gold Cup roster spots to young, versatile players to provide them with important international experience. Head coach Bev Priestman is already thinking beyond the Paris Games to the 2027 WWC, focusing on bringing depth and stability to Canada soccer on the pitch, despite unfortunate circumstances off of it.

  • In 2023, CanWNT briefly played under protest under the threat of legal action, a reality that cannot be separated from their overall lackluster performance on the field.

Players to watch: Midfielder Jessie Fleming, the reigning women’s Canada Soccer Player of the Year, is widely expected to take over as captain following Sincy’s swan song, cementing her position as CanWNT’s anchor alongside defenders Kadeisha Buchanan and Ashley Lawrence.

  • Priestman is particularly excited to possibly award youngsters like midfielder Simi Awujo and defender Jade Rose starting spots, alongside Canadian stalwarts like forward Jordyn Huitema (pronounced HEIGHT-uh-mah) and midfielder (and friend of The GIST) Quinn. Onwards and upwards.

📺 How to watch

The USWNT and CanWNT show a sign of unity at the 2023 SheBelieves Cup.
Source: Roy K. Miller/ISI Photos/Getty Images

You can catch all the excitement on CBS or Paramount+ in the U.S. and OneSoccer in Canada. The USWNT’s first match is tonight at 10:15 p.m. ET against the No. 107 Dominican Republic, and CanWNT makes their tourney debut on Thursday at 9 p.m. ET against No. 104 El Salvador. Here we go.