FORMER Matilda Sally Shipard says the prospect of Australia hosting the 2023 Women's World Cup would be a "huge" shot in the arm for the sport.
The Wagga product, who played in 59 matches and two World Cups for the Matildas before retiring in 2014, said it's a massive chance for the sport to market itself to non-soccer followers should FIFA give the joint Australia-New Zealand bid the nod on Friday morning.
Its prospects received a major boost on Monday when main rival Japan withdrew its bid, leaving Colombia as the only obstacle standing in its way.
The Australia-New Zealand bid is hot favourite after Japan threw its support behind its fellow Asian Federation member, while a recent FIFA technival evaluation of the three bids rated it 4.1 out of 5, with Colombia trailing on 2.8.
"It would be huge. As soon as I heard the update overnight a big smile was stretched across my face," she said.
"I think it would be wonderful for football, let alone women's football.
"People who genuinely enjoy football tend to see the advantages of women's football, and are able to undertand and enjoy the women's game. But people that aren't necessarily football fans are enjoying watching women's sport as well.
The more people get exposed to that elite level, the more likely they are to tune in.Sally Shipard
"The more people get exposed to the game at that elite level, the more likely they are to tune in and follow stories.
"Mates or acquantances of mine always bring up the likes of Sam Kerr and how much they enjoy watching her play, and I wouldn't have put them in the football-watching box.
"There's definitely momentum building and with COVID and the Olympics being delayed, this will put an extra pep in the Australian sporting landscape."
Studies consistently rate the Matildas as one of the most popular teams in Australia, with women's sport enjoying a major boom in exposure and TV coverage the past few years.
Shipard said it gives the current crop an opportunity to be pioneers for the game.
"When I think back to me being a youngster my football heroes were all men," she said.
"Obviously that didn't bother me at the time, but men had the exposure whereas now young girls who want to play football can look up to other women that are really successful.
"They have such a bigger profile now that it makes for a more realistic goal as a young girl to think there's a future for them if they choose to go for it.
"They've all got pretty interesting stories. they were all pretty young when i was still playing and they've really evolved over the last half a decade."