Melbourne misses out on hosting Matildas as Women’s Asian Cup host states revealed

<span>The Matildas’ <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Steph Catley;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Steph Catley</a> poses with fans after the World Cup send-off game in Melbourne. Victoria will not host any 2026 Women’s Asian Cup matches.</span><span>Photograph: Future Publishing/Getty Images</span>

Melburnians will miss out on seeing the Matildas play in the next Women’s Asian Cup after Football Australia revealed Victoria was not on the list of proposed host states for the 2026 tournament.

FA announced on Monday that New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia are the confirmed candidates, with the specific cities and venues to be decided once the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) ratifies Australia as the tournament host.

Australia is the sole bidder for hosting rights – and has the AFC’s recommendation – after Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Uzbekistan withdrew their interest. Confirmation of the AFC’s decision is expected in May.

The FA chief executive, James Johnson, said hosting the 2026 tournament was the perfect opportunity to continue to capitalise on the success of hosting the 2023 Women’s World Cup.

Related: Australia in box seat to host 2026 Women’s Asian Cup as economic impact of World Cup revealed

“We are eager to build upon this legacy to further enhance our football landscape both nationally and regionally,” he said.

The omission of Victoria as a host comes after the state was not used past the round of 16 during the hugely successful Women’s World Cup in Australia due to the unavailability of the larger MCG and Marvel stadiums.

It also comes despite Melbourne being the location for the state-of-the-art “Home of the Matildas” facility, which was first revealed by the Victorian government in May 2021 and opened in the months before the World Cup.

The selection process for host states took place more than a year ago – before the World Cup and subsequent boom in interest – with FA approaching six state governments to put forward expressions of interest.

Guardian Australia understands the Victorian government did not express interest to host Asian Cup matches.

A Victorian government spokesperson said the matter was commercial in confidence, and that the state “has a packed calendar of major events, and welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors to our state over the summer months”.

While the exact timing of the tournament is yet to be decided it is likely it would held in the first quarter of 2026.

It is possible that venue availability and resourcing would have been factors for Victoria if the Asian Cup coincided with other summer sporting events such as the Australian Open and Big Bash League, and the international cricket schedule.

The spokesperson said the state was a “proud supporter of showcasing elite women’s football with major events”.

Victoria has hosted the Matildas for standalone matches several times in the last year, including for their final World Cup preparation match against France in June 2023 and the Olympic qualifier against Uzbekistan in February.

Both those games sold out – part of a run of sellouts that has now reached 12 games – and with no signs of momentum slowing, that streak will hit 14 after the Matildas return to home soil for two pre-Olympics matches against China in May and June, in Adelaide and Sydney.

Unlike the 32-team Women’s World Cup, only 12 nations play in the Asian Cup, with three groups of four teams in the group stage requiring just three host states.

FA projects the tournament will generate up to $260m and create more than 1,000 jobs. Johnson said FA would “explore future opportunities” for hosting the national teams with the states that missed out.

Since the Women’s World Cup there has been a significant increase in football participation across the country, with registrations up 30% in some areas, leaving some clubs wondering how their facilities will support the surge in interest.

FA’s World Cup legacy report, released in February, found there was a funding shortfall of $2.9bn required to improve the country’s grassroots facilities.

Johnson welcomed the federal government’s Play Our Way grant program to help address the facilities gap, and said the backing from state governments for the Asian Cup was “essential to maintain the momentum and ensure the continuous development of the sport across the country”.

FA hopes to leverage the 2026 tournament to further boost football participation and maintain interest in the sport with major events such as the Brisbane 2032 Olympics on the horizon.