Football: NZ, Australia clear favourites to host 2023 Women's World Cup

New Zealand and Australia are now clear favourites to host the 2023 Women's Football World Cup, after the withdrawal of nearest rivals Japan.

With a decision from world governing body FIFA due later this week, the Asian nation formally dropped its bid from the three-way contest. leaving South Americans Colombia as the only obstacle to trans-Tasman hopes. 

Earlier this month, FIFA released results of its technical evaluations of the three bids, with NZ/Australia scoring an average of 4.1 out of five, edging Japan (3.9) and Colombia (2.8).

Brazil had earlier withdrawn, leaving Colombia as the only South American contender. South Korea and South Africa dropped plans to bid in December.

"This is the first-ever cross-confederation bid between ourselves and Australia," NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told media on Monday. "This would be the first ever Women's World Cup in this part of the world - in the southern hemisphere and in the Asia/Pacific region."

The Asian Football Confederation is now likely to support a combined NZ/Australia bid that was clearly superior to the Colombians in all technical categories. 

Before the withdrawals of Brazil and Japan, FIFA had described the contest as "the most competitive bidding process' in Women's World Cup history.

Team USA celebrate victory at last year's Women's World Cup
Team USA celebrate victory at last year's Women's World Cup. Photo credit: Reuters.

In an open vote of the 37-member FIFA Council, the result of each round of balloting and each voter's choice will be made public. With the field now reduced to two, there will presumably now be just one round of balloting.

"FIFA remains committed to implementing the most comprehensive, objective and transparent bidding process in the history of the Women's World Cup," said FIFA general secretary Fatma Samoura.

The 2023 tournament will feature 32 teams for the first time, up from the 24 in France last year, when the Football Ferns lost their pool games to Netherlands, Canada and Cameroon.