Saudi Arabia is all but certain to host the men’s 2034 FIFA World Cup after the Australian football federation declined to enter the bidding contest.

FIFA had set Tuesday as the deadline to submit a bid to host the tournament, but Australia’s decision to pull out leaves Saudi Arabia as the only declared candidate.

“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 (FA) said in a statement.

FIFA still needs to rubber stamp Saudi Arabia as the hosts  a decision that is likely to be made next year  but victory now seems a formality.

Natural next step in football journey: It would be the culmination of Saudi Arabia’s ambitious drive to become a major player in global sports, having already spent massive amounts on bringing in dozens of star footballers to their domestic league, 

buying English club Newcastle, launching the breakaway LIV Golf tour and hosting major boxing fights.

When awarding the 2030 World Cup to a joint bid by Spain, Portugal and Morocco  which will also feature games in South America  FIFA decided to fast-track the 2034 hosting race earlier this month with only member federations in Asia and Oceania eligible to bid.

The tight deadline gave them less than four weeks to enter the race and just one month more to sign a bidding agreement that requires government support.