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Anna Harrington

Australia won't bid for 2034 FIFA World Cup

Football Australia, under James Johnson, has withdrawn its bid to host the 2034 FIFA World Cup. (Jono Searle/AAP PHOTOS)

Australia won't bid for the 2034 men's soccer World Cup, clearing the way for Saudi Arabia to host the tournament.

Football Australia's hopes of following this year's groundbreaking Women's World Cup, co-hosted with New Zealand, appeared dead in the water as soon as the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) backed the Saudi bid on October 5.

There had appeared a glimmer of hope when Indonesia's football association flagged interest in a joint bid with Australia, potentially alongside Malaysia and Singapore, earlier this month.

But that faded when Indonesia instead backed Saudi Arabia days later.

Australia will instead attempt to secure hosting rights for the 2029 Club World Cup and the 2026 Women's Asian Cup, the latter a tournament oil-rich Saudi Arabia has also bid on, and underlined its credentials.

"We have explored the opportunity to bid to host the FIFA World Cup and - having taken all factors into consideration - we have reached the conclusion not to do so for the 2034 competition," FA said in a statement.

"Instead, we believe we are in a strong position to host the oldest women's international competition in the world, the AFC Women's Asian Cup 2026, and then welcome the greatest teams in world football for the 2029 FIFA Club World Cup. 

"Achieving this - following the FIFA Women's World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023 and with the Brisbane 2032 Olympic Games - would represent a truly golden decade for Australian football.

"For international tournament hosting, the Australian time zones provide significant opportunities for broadcasters, and we are within touching distance of billions of people in Asia and Oceania, which also helps to provide a strong commercial outlook for competitions,"

FA said that golden decade would "underpinned by the opportunity" for its men's and women's teams to compete at major tournaments - both World Cups, Asian Cups, Olympics and under-20 World Cups.

Last time Australia attempted to host a men's World Cup, the $46 million bid to host the 2022 tournament received just one vote of support.

Tuesday's statement notably didn't mention Saudi Arabia, nor support the Gulf state's bid.

When the AFC backed Saudi Arabia, FA chief executive James Johnson said the governing body was "exploring the possibility" of bidding for 2034 - something he had consistently flagged during the Women's World Cup.

But following through clearly would have put Australia at odds with its own confederation, and likely FIFA.

Only Asia or Oceania could bid for 2034 after FIFA accepted only one candidate for 2030: a six-country bid spread across three confederations: Europe, Africa and South America.

The Spain-Portugal bid grew to add Morocco this year and now plans to have one game played in each of Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay to mark the World Cup centenary.

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