All 18 AFL clubs will have an AFLW team by 2023 after the AFL Commission approved plans for further expansion of the women's competition.
AFLW will also be brought forward on the calendar next season in order to give it clear air and avoid a scheduling overlap with the AFL.
The sixth AFLW season will begin in December this year, with the 14 existing teams to contest 10 home-and-away rounds and a three-week finals series, culminating in a mid-March grand final in 2022.
The AFL on Thursday confirmed it has called for submissions from the four clubs who do not currently have AFLW teams - Essendon, Hawthorn, Port Adelaide and Sydney - to join the women's competition.
The clubs have been asked to re-apply for AFLW entry by detailing their readiness, list-building strategy, corporate support and facilities for women's football.
The submissions are due on July 9 with the AFL Commission set to make decisions on those bids in August.
Each of the four clubs could join the competition as soon as the 2022-23 season, with the AFL committed to their entry in 2023-24 at the latest.
"AFLW has significant momentum and we want to keep that momentum and bring the power and the supporter base behind all 18 clubs," AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan said.
Essendon, Hawthorn, Port Adelaide and Sydney welcomed the decision to expand AFLW, but Hawks president Jeff Kennett had been chasing a spot for his club in the 2021-22 season.
An irate Kennett on Thursday said the four clubs are being discriminated against by the AFL by being made to wait for AFLW entry and threatened possible legal action.
The Hawks were not interested in joining AFLW when it began more than five years ago and have since had expansion submissions rejected.
"The AFL was established by the club presidents to oversee the code and act equally on behalf of all those clubs (but) four of us have been denied the opportunity to play in AFLW," Kennett said on SEN radio.
"Four of us are still denied the opportunity in what is the fastest growing aspect in AFL football at the moment."
With expansion from 14 to 18 teams, the AFLW player pool will grow from 420 to 540 within two years.
But McLachlan and AFL general manager of women's football Nicole Livingstone dismissed concerns over the talent pool being further stretched.
"You've got a lot of girls coming through that have now played right through from Auskick to AFLW and there's a lot of girls coming through the system," Livingstone said.
"We've invested heavily in the talent pathways and those now look very equal to the boys' pathways.
"We're very proud of that piece of work that we've done to accelerate those girls coming through the system."
The AFL is yet to finalise the AFLW competition structure beyond next season or rules around player contracting and recruiting in the lead-up to the expansion phase.
AFLW SEASON TIMELINES
Season six - December 2021 to March 2022
Season seven - Late 2022 start
Season eight - Late 2023 start