Ideas for USWNT hero Jill Ellis as she leads FIFA women’s group

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Two-time World Cup champion Jill Ellis will lead a FIFA panel set to examine ways to grow women’s football.

Ellis, 55, will lead a “Technical Advisory Group on the future of women’s football, bringing together a group of thought leaders to consider the future of the women’s game,” in order to “work with stakeholders from all platforms to examine and explore ways to improve the current match calendar and build global development and competitiveness.”

[ MORE: What’s wrong with USMNT’s World Cup qualifying start ]

Ellis led the United States women’s national team to win the 2015 and 2019 World Cups after taking UCLA to eight College Cups. She’s the latest top manager tabbed to a FIFA post as Arsene Wenger was named chief of global football development in late 2019.

“Potential areas of discussion will include introducing more meaningful and regular competition at all levels globally, optimizing youth development structures, and improving coaching and education standards within the game,” Ellis said in a FIFA release. “However, it is not an exhaustive list; Everything is on the table.”

The women’s match calendar should have more variety, presuming an eventual end to the pandemic and the return of safe travel.

That’s necessary to grow the game globally but also to ensure the continued improvement in competition in current tournaments like the World Cup.

Currently, the Olympics and SheBelieves Cup represent the only competitions to raise eyebrows even in the United States, where friendlies have largely served to salute the USWNT rather than grow the player pool’s experience with true competitions.

Consider that Brazil has won eight of nine Copa America tournaments, the USWNT has won eight of 10 CONCACAF women’s championships, and Germany has worn eight of 12 womens’ EURO crown (including eight of the last nine). Nigeria has won 11 of 13 Africa Women Cup of Nations.

A Women’s World Cup every two years would be more feasible while the game grows than it would be for the men’s game, but how about we get creative here?

We’ve got some ideas that do not include Sepp Blatter’s reprehensible “shorter shorts” plan of many yeards ago.

  • Allow the finalists from the above-named championships to compete in a two-grouped, two-advancing, three-week Tournament of Champions.
  • Incentivize “big” teams like the USWNT to travel for away match days or tournaments against growing programs.
  • Showcase U-23 or “B teams” with cap restrictions in tournaments hosted by federations that meet requirements for growing the women’s game.
  • Equal pay (<– Not even grandstanding. Just did this to surprise people who are offended by the concept).
  • Club vs country: Invite the Women’s Super League champion, NWSL champion, UEFA Women’s Champions League winner, and a small number of national teams to the same tournament.

It’s not ideal that nations would need to be incentivized to grow their women’s game — not at all — but rewarding those who are already empowering women’s athletics could go a long way toward a more widespread embrace of the beautiful game.