Photo Credit: OFC Media via Phototek

Women’s football in Oceania continues to grow apace, with the OFC Women’s Champions League 2024 kicking off in Honiara, Solomon Islands, this weekend. The second edition of the tournament sees an increase in teams competing, with 8 sides taking part this month – three more than the five who contested the inaugural competition last year in Papua New Guinea.

Cook Islands, Vanuatu and New Zealand will be represented for the first time, having missed out last year, with only three teams who appeared in Port Moresby returning for 2024: Fiji’s Labasa Women FC, Papua New Guinea’s Hekari United and the defending champions AS Academy Féminine of New Caledonia.

For hosts Solomon Islands, the opportunity to showcase the very best of women’s club football in the region is a sign of the growing recognition that the women’s game is receiving in a passionate football country.

The senior women’s national team has been steadily improving, including reaching the final of last month’s Women’s Olympic Football Tournament – Oceania Qualifier, coming undone against favourites New Zealand. They also had an impressive showing at the OFC Women’s Nations Cup 2022, finishing third.

Ileen Pegi has been an influential figure for the Solomon Islands in recent years. Photo Credit: OFC Media via Phototek

Honiara also played host to last year’s South Pacific Games, where both men’s and women’s football played a prominent role in a celebration of sport across Oceania.

Amid the boost that the OFC Women’s Champions League will hopefully have for women’s football in the country, there has been a renewed focus on grassroots development for girls interested in the game. A reintroduction of girls’ youth leagues is aimed at helping creating clearer pathways for talented young players who have aspirations of playing at the top level.

The domestic women’s league – the Solrais Women’s Premier League – has proved to be exciting and competitive division, no less evident that last season, when Henderson Eels secured the title – and a place in the OFC Women’s Champions League – on the final day, finishing a point ahead of second-placed Koloale FC and RSIPF Royals in third.

The Solomon Islands’ champions will be hoping for a strong showing on home soil but with the 2024 edition of the tournament expanded to eight sides, it should prove to be an even more competitive affair than last year.

A 100th minute strike for AS Academy Féminine in their opening match against Hekari United ultimately proved to be the difference as the New Caledonia side made history as the first-ever champions. The margins could prove to be even finer in Honiara, as women’s football in Oceania continues to go from strength to strength.

Watch every match of the OFC Women’s Champions League 2024 LIVE and FREE on FIFA+