King Fahd International Stadium, located in Riyadh, is the largest stadium in Saudi Arabia and could host games in the 2034 World Cup. Photo by STR/EPA-EFE
Oct. 31 (UPI) -- Saudi Arabia is expected to host the 2034 FIFA Men's World Cup after Australia, the only other confirmed contender for the upcoming edition of the men's soccer tournament, dropped out.
Football Australia announced Tuesday that the country no longer was interested in hosting the tournament.
"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 news release.
Football Australia said the country -- which hosted the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup with New Zealand -- is in a "strong position to host" the AFC Women's Asian Cup in 2026 and the 2029 FIFA Club World Cup.
FIFA set an Oct. 31 deadline for submissions from potential hosts, welcoming bids from Asia and Oceania. Saudi Arabia, which announced its bid Oct. 9, is the only known country to publicly announce its intention to host the tournament.
"We are extremely committed to presenting the most competitive bid possible that will also help unite the world through football," Saudi Arabian Football Federation president Yasser Al Misehal said.
The Saudi Arabian Football Federation said it received public support from more than 70 FIFA member associations in its effort to become the host.
Earlier this month, Asian Football Confederation president Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa expressed support for Saudi Arabia's bid to host the 2034 World Cup. The Asian Football Confederation includes Saudi Arabia and countries in Oceania, including Australia.
FIFA still needs to officially approve Saudi Arabia's bid, with a decision expected in 2024.
Saudi Arabia's attempt to host the World Cup is among major efforts the country, which has faced criticism for its human rights record -- including links to the hijackers in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 -- has made to increase its footprint in soccer and the sports world.
Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund leads those efforts. The fund's real estate division sponsors the Saudi Pro League. Several teams in that league, which are owned by the $700 billion fund, have succeeded in luring notable soccer stars, including Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar Jr., to continue their playing careers in the Middle East.
Fellow soccer stars Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe have rebuffed offers from Saudi clubs.
The fund also continues to operate LIV Golf, a rival of the PGA Tour, which now wants to join with the U.S.-based league. That potential deal remains subject to investigations by the U.S. Department of Justice.
King Fahd International Stadium, situated in Riyadh, is the largest stadium in Saudi Arabia. The facility is the home stadium for Al-Hilal, a Saudi Pro League club owned by the Public Investment Fund.
Looking ahead, the 2026 men's tournament will be held in Canada, Mexico and the United States. The 2030 tournament will contested in Morocco, Portugal, Spain, Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay.