KUALA LUMPUR: Saudi Arabia, Australia, Jordan and Uzbekistan have submitted Expressions of Interest to host the 2026 Women’s Asian Cup, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) said on Monday.

If selected, Saudi Arabia, whose women’s football team only played its first match in February this year, will host its first official international women’s tournament.

Although recent reforms have given women in Saudi Arabia more freedoms, many of their rights remain restricted. Saudi women were banned from attending fixtures in stadiums until 2017.

Australia last hosted the Women’s Asian Cup in 2006, while the 2018 edition was played in Jordan. Uzbekistan have not previously hosted the tournament.

“The AFC will now work with all Bidding Member Associations on the delivery of the necessary bidding documentation in accordance with the bidding process with a decision to be finalised and communicated in 2023,” the AFC said.

The winning bid will be announced next year and the AFC hailed the growing popularity of the tournament.

China claimed a record-extending ninth Women’s Asian Cup title after beating South Korea in the final of the 2022 tournament, which was hosted by India and expanded from eight to 12 teams.

The 2026 edition “is expected to build on the solid foundations of the tournament’s celebrated legacy”, the AFC said.

Published in Dawn, August 2nd, 2022

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