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Brazil is the top contender to host the Women's World Cup in 2027

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Tomorrow international soccer's governing body, FIFA, announces which country will host the Women's World Cup in 2027. Brazil is the top contender. Needless to say, it's a big country for football - the home country of Pele, among others. The history of women's soccer, though, is shorter there. Julia Carneiro reports from Rio de Janeiro on what a Women's World Cup would mean.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Singing in Portuguese).

JULIA CARNEIRO, BYLINE: It's a hot, sunny afternoon. And Rio's big soccer rivals, Flamengo and Fluminense, are playing in Rio as part of the women's national championship.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Singing in Portuguese).

CARNEIRO: Brazil has real chances of hosting the next Women's World Cup in 2027. And I'm talking to some of the young players here to find out what this would mean for them. Seventeen-year-old Julia Bittencourt is a goalkeeper for Flamengo, and she tells me she left her family in southern Brazil to come to Rio after the dream of playing football.

JULIA BITTENCOURT: (Speaking Portuguese).

CARNEIRO: She says she's always been passionate about soccer and doesn't see a future anywhere else. She envisions a career on the sidelines as part of the training staff. And she hopes this will help bring financial stability to her family. Not very long ago, these young women couldn't have been here. It wasn't until 1979 that women were allowed to play soccer in Brazil, so these players are part of a young history.

(CHEERING)

CARNEIRO: Seventeen-year-old Cecilia Alves is a defender for Flamengo. She was only 7 years old when the Men's World Cup was held here in Brazil, 10 years ago.

CECILIA ALVES: (Speaking Portuguese).

CARNEIRO: She tells me it was memorable having the world cup here. She'd paint her face and dress up in the colors of Brazil to watch the games on the streets with everyone cheering. She says it would be amazing for the same to happen for women's soccer with the world cup here.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Singing in Portuguese).

CARNEIRO: This match is being held in a small stadium with very basic infrastructure in the outskirts of Rio, nothing like the first league venues used by the men's teams. But if the World Cup comes to Brazil, the women will get center stage at the famous Maracana Stadium for the opening and final matches.

RENATA MENDONCA: Stadiums we already have. But the stadiums that they are putting in the bid for the Women's World Cup, women don't play in those stadiums.

CARNEIRO: Renata Mendonca is a sports journalist and has been covering women's soccer in Brazil since 2015. In this period, there have been huge advances. The Brazilian soccer confederation made it mandatory for the main clubs to have female teams. It created competitions for female youth categories. And women's matches came to be broadcast on TV. But still, the country of soccer is entirely male-centered, she says.

MENDONCA: There is a lack of opportunity, a lack of competitions, a lack of investments by the confederation, by the clubs - a lack of visibility, you know, by the media. So I believe all these things can change if you bring a Women's World Cup because then all eyes of the world will come to your country and will come to the women's game.

CARNEIRO: The Brazilian delegation is in Bangkok waiting for FIFA's announcement on Friday. The competing bid was placed by Belgium, Holland and Germany. Valesca Araujo, executive in charge of operations and infrastructure in the Brazilian bid, says time is ripe for a tournament in Brazil leveraging growing interest in women's soccer.

VALESCA ARAUJO: We really believe that this is a very important platform in South America to change the situation of not just for the women's football, but women in general - the players, referees, journalists, professional of sports. And not just in Brazil but this is a World Cup for South America, not just for Brazil.

CARNEIRO: For NPR News, I'm Julia Carneiro in Rio.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Julia Carneiro
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