Saudi Arabia is almost certain to host the 2034 FIFA World Cup after the Australian Football Federation declined to participate in the bidding competition

Saudi Arabia is almost certain to host the 2034 FIFA World Cup after the Australian Football Federation declined to participate in the bidding competition. FIFA set a deadline on Tuesday for submitting bids to host the tournament, but Australia's decision to withdraw leaves Saudi Arabia as the only declared candidate.

"We have explored the possibility of bidding for the 2034 FIFA World Cup and, after taking into account all factors, have come to the conclusion not to proceed with a bid for the 2034 competition," Football Australia said in a statement.

FIFA still needs to officially approve Saudi Arabia as the host, a decision that is likely to be made next year, but victory now appears to be a formality for the oil-rich kingdom. This will be the culmination of Saudi Arabia's ambitious endeavor to become a major player in global sports, as it has already spent massive sums to attract dozens of star footballers to its domestic league, purchased the English football club Newcastle, launched the breakaway golf tour LIV, and hosted major boxing matches.

The sports spending program, approved by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has been described as sports washing to soften the national image, which is often associated with its position on women's rights and the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino has established close ties with Saudi football and the Crown Prince personally, and it has long been believed that he is trying to steer global football competitions towards the kingdom.

By awarding the hosting of the 2030 FIFA World Cup to a joint bid by Spain, Portugal, and Morocco (which will also feature games in South America), FIFA earlier this month decided to expedite the hosting of the 2034 FIFA World Cup, allowing only member federations from Asia and Oceania to participate. Due to the tight timeline, they had less than four weeks to join the race by Tuesday and just one month more to sign the tender agreement, which requires government support.

A few hours after FIFA's announcement, the Saudi Arabian Football Federation declared its intention to bid, and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), which includes Australia, announced its support for the kingdom's bid to bring the World Cup back to the Middle East after neighboring Qatar hosted the tournament in 2022.

Qatar will hold the European club football season in November and December to avoid the scorching summer months, and the tournament in Saudi Arabia is likely to be rescheduled from the traditional June-July period.

Indonesia's football association initially expressed interest in a joint bid with Australia, possibly alongside Malaysia and Singapore, but that interest vanished when Indonesia instead threw its support behind Saudi Arabia.

Instead, Australia will try to secure the rights to host the Club World Cup in 2029, which will be revamped in a new format starting in 2025, featuring 32 teams every four years, as well as the AFC Women's Asian Cup in 2026.

Australia and New Zealand successfully hosted the Women's World Cup in July and August. Brisbane, Queensland, is set to become the third Australian city to host the Olympic Games when the 2032 Summer Games are held there.