The Football Association has received 15 applications to join the revamped top two tiers of women’s football for 2018-19, with nine vacancies available.
Up to four teams could join the top division, the FA Women’s Super League (WSL), and up to five may enter tier two, the new FA Women’s Championship.
Any club with an affiliated women’s or girls’ football team could apply before the deadline on Friday, 9 March.
Successful applicants will not be named by the FA until the end of May.
Clubs including West Ham United have stated their desire to join the WSL, while Crystal Palace and Sheffield United were among the teams to bid to join the Women’s Championship.
Sides wishing to play in the top league will have to meet new professional criteria, including running a youth academy, while the Women’s Championship will be a part-time division.
There will be a maximum of 14 teams in the WSL next season, but the final number may be fewer than that.
In the Women’s Championship, there will be up to 12 teams, seven of whom are already confirmed as staying put from the current cohort.
BBC Sport understands the Women’s Championship has been heavily oversubscribed, with interest from several lower-team clubs.
The applications will be assessed by an expert panel and the FA’s Women’s Board.
Who already has a licence?
In the autumn of 2017, existing tier one and tier two clubs had the opportunity to apply first, in a closed application process.
That saw all 17 applicants placed in the league they applied for, with Brighton moving up to the top tier and all other applicants staying put.
The following teams were awarded licences for the top two tiers for next term:
- Tier One: Arsenal, Birmingham City, Brighton & Hove Albion, Bristol City, Chelsea Ladies, Everton Ladies, Liverpool Ladies, Manchester City, Reading Women, Yeovil Town.
- Tier Two: Aston Villa, Doncaster Rovers Belles, Durham, London Bees, Millwall Lionesses, Sheffield FC Ladies, Tottenham Hotspur.
The traditional methods of promotion and relegation were scrapped for the 2017-18 season only and the WSL, which is run by the FA and is only open to English teams, recently transitioned from a summer season to a winter calendar.
Existing top-tier side Sunderland opted not to apply to retain their WSL status in the first application period, but the Lady Black Cats were expected to consider a bid in phase two.
Oxford United, currently of the second tier, also did not apply initially, but later stated their intention to apply for the recently-renamed Women’s Championship.
Meanwhile, although the full list of applicants has not been revealed, the following clubs [currently playing below tier two] were among the new applicants to join the Women’s Championship:
- Charlton Athletic, Coventry United, Crystal Palace, Derby County and Sheffield United
The third tier is split into Northern and Southern regions, with a deciding play-off on Sunday, 27 May.
At least one place in the Women’s Championship will be reserved for the winner of that play-off, provided the club involved applies and meets the licence criteria. Therefore, the names of the clubs who have earned spots in the top two divisions will not be confirmed until after 27 May.
Charlton are currently top of the third tier’s Southern league, while Middlesbrough are top of the Northern Division.