Australia and New Zealand's bid to host the 2023 Women's World Cup has received a boost after rivals Japan withdrew from contention and pledged their support.
Australia and New Zealand will be hot favourites to be named hosts for the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup later this week, with rivals Japan pulling out of contention to stage the event and pledging their support for the joint bid.
Japan on Monday officially withdrew its proposal to host the tournament, leaving Colombia as the only other bidder in competition with Australia/New Zealand.
The Japan Football Association (JFA) confirmed their withdrawal from the process on Monday evening, throwing their support behind the Australia and New Zealand joint bid.
"The decision to withdraw from the bid was taken after careful and thorough consideration in the Japan Bid Committee as well as the JFA Executive Committee," JFA president Kohzo Tashima said in a statement.
"Now, we can show the solidarity of (the) Asian football family, to lead to a successful bid."
"Japan will cooperate with FIFA and the host nation(s) to ensure women's football in the world continues to advance, expand and ascend to a higher level."
The FIFA Council will make its decision on the host in an online meeting and open vote on Thursday June 25, with an announcement expected in the early hours of Friday, Australian time.
On the surface, Japan's withdrawal - and subsequent backing of its former rival bid - hands a clear advantage to Australia and New Zealand.
Like Australia, Japan is a member of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and it appears likely that AFC votes previously split between the competing bids will now go to Australia/New Zealand.
The Oceania Football Confederation, of which New Zealand is a member, has already publicly endorsed the joint bid, with the Southeast Asian ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) recently following suit.
Last week Australia and New Zealand received the highest score in FIFA's technical evaluation of the three bids.
The joint bid scored 4.1 out of five in the report, with Japan awarded 3.9 and Colombia trailing on 2.8. Brazil withdrew from the running earlier this month.
South American Football Federation (CONMEBOL) president Alejandro Dominguez and Colombian Football Federation president Ramon Jesurun wrote to FIFA to object to the Colombia bid's evaluation score - but FIFA stood by their report.
In its guide to the bidding process, FIFA emphasised its commitment to "conduct an open, ethical and thorough bidding process" to select the host.