Australia has finally withdrawn its application to host FIFA's 2018 World Cup leaving only a nominal bid from the United States of America standing in the way of the selction of a European nation (from England, Russia, Portugal/Spain and Netherland/Belgium). FIFA's desire to return the Cup to Europe after sojourns in South Africa and Brazil has been known for months.
The next question is who will be awarded the 2022 tournament? The decision will be made at the FIFA Executive meeting in December.
The two continents competing for 2022 will be North America, represented by the USA, which previously hosted the 1994 World Cup and Asia, represented by Qatar, South Korea, Japan and Australia.
Qatar is the home country of Asian Football Confederation president Mohammed bin Hammam. Japan and South Korea co-hosted the 2002 World Cup. Australia, a host of two Olympic Games only recently transferred to Asia from the Oceania Football Confederation.
Interestingly, the USA, Qatar, South Korea and Japan each have a representative on the 24-person FIFA executive while Australia has received a public endorsement from the Oceania representative.
But FIFA, with its gamble on South Africa in 2010 and Brazil in 2014 and its push for Europe in 2018, has already indicated that it has more at stake than just a comfortable venue for the competition.
FIFA attracts most of its revenues from the 4-yearly World Cup. As well, the World Cup is its showcase for soccer's continuing development. In a competitive global sports market, both these issues are critical.
The USA's 2022 bid offers FFA great venues, guaranteed profits and the opportunity to promote the game in North America.
China could offer the same for Asia in 2026 and, if FIFA wants to stage its flagship in the world's most populace (and rapidly developing) country that year ... expect the USA to be granted the rights to 2022.