Saudi Arabia is in line to host the 2034 World Cup after FIFA announced on Tuesday that the kingdom was the only bidder for the tournament.
The decision will be ratified officially at the end of next year, providing all of the technical criteria are met.
Saudi Arabia, which has invested heavily in football as well as Formula One and golf, is set to take over from an unprecedented tri-continental line-up for the 2030 event, which will be shared between Spain, Portugal and Morocco, with three matches in South America.
The bid comes one year after neighbouring Qatar hosted the first World Cup in the Middle East, where the Saudi national team scored a stunning group stage victory over eventual winners Argentina.
At this point, only “expressions of interest” have been submitted.
After the full bids for 2030 and 2034 are handed over, they will be evaluated by FIFA and put to a vote at two separate congress meetings at the end of 2024.
But the absence of any competition leaves little room for suspense, while also raising numerous questions about the environmental impact of the 2030 event and the compatibility of the 2034 tournament with FIFA’s human rights commitments.
Saudi Arabia was initially interested in bidding for the 2030 World Cup alongside Egypt and Greece but that idea was abandoned in June, leaving the path open for the tri-continental bid.
Saudi Arabia announced its intention to bid for the 2034 event on October 4, as soon as the procedure had been launched.
As a result of the continental rotation, FIFA had only “invited” member countries of the Asian and Oceanian confederations to apply — thus ruling out the traditional footballing heartlands.
At one stage, Indonesia had considered a joint bid with Australia, or even other countries such as New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore, but on October 19 it agreed to support Saudi Arabia’s bid.
Australia, which successfully hosted the Women’s World Cup this year, was also a contender but withdrew its interest on Monday following the Asian Football Confederation’s decision to back the Saudi bid.
“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,” Football Australia said in a statement.