Australia closes in on 2026 Women’s Asian Cup after Saudi, Uzbek withdrawals

(Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)
(Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Australia is the favourite to host the 2026 AFC Women’s Asian Cup following the withdrawal of Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia from the bidding race.

Australia was one of four countries – alongside Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan – to submit expressions of interest in hosting the 2026 tournament to the Asian Football Confederation by the August 2022 deadline.

The sport’s governing body Football Australia has held a longstanding interest in hosting the AFC Women’s Asian Cup since it dropped its bid to stage the 2023 Asian Cup, which was eventually held in Qatar.

Australia co-hosted the Fifa Women’s World Cup with New Zealand last year and was keen to use the successful hosting to launch a bid to stage the Fifa men’s edition in 2034. However, it dropped its plans in October, leaving Saudi Arabia free to stage Fifa’s showpiece international event for the first time.

Football Australia said at the time: “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.

“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.”

India hosted the last AFC Women’s Asian Cup in 2022, while Jordan staged the event in 2018.

In addition to the 2034 men’s World Cup, Saudi Arabia will also host the men’s AFC Asian Cup in 2027 and has expressed interest in staging the Women’s World Cup in 2035. It staged the 2023 Fifa Club World Cup in December.

WWC economic impact

Football Australia is confident of success with its application to stage the 2026 Women’s Asian Cup after today (Friday) publishing a legacy report on the 2023 Fifa Women’s World Cup.

The report, entitled Legacy ’23, claims that the tournament had A$1.32bn (€800m/$866m) worth of “economic impact” while the event played a vital role in promoting physical activity, leading to an estimated A$324m reduction in healthcare costs.

The report highlights 403,136 people attended across all seven sold-out matches for the Matildas, the Australian national women’s team. There were 86,654 international visitors during the tournament period and 1,288,175 total tickets sold for Matildas matches.

The report also claims research to show that the Matildas were propelled to become Australia’s favourite national sports team.

While highlighting the economic benefits of the World Cup co-hosting, the report also calls for additional investment in football facilities in order to stage a successful Women’s Asian Cup in 2026. It claims there is a “A$2.9bn gap in facility investment across Australia”.

Referring to the Women’s Asian Cup bid, the report said: “Football Australia remains a strong contender to secure the hosting rights for the 2026 AFC Women’s Asian Cup. Australia is ready, one of the most multicultural societies in the world, with over 300 different ancestries and almost 20 per cent of our nation’s population having ties back to countries that comprise the Asian Football Confederation, meaning every team that visits our shores will have a ‘home away from home’ feeling.

“This esteemed Asian football tournament provides an ideal platform for all tiers of government to employ football as a tool for effectively implementing sports diplomacy and tourism strategies within Asia. This enhances Australia’s footprint across the continent, fostering deeper connections. Furthermore, hosting the tournament on home soil represents a crucial platform to advance the goals outlined in Legacy ‘23, particularly in addressing the shortfall in football facility investment.”