The Japan Football Association said Monday it has decided to withdraw its bid to host the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup after deeming it unlikely it would win the right to host the tournament.
The decision comes just days before soccer's world governing body FIFA is scheduled to announce the host following an online board meeting on Thursday.
Speaking at an online press conference, JFA Chairman Kozo Tashima said Japan was trailing when his organization estimated the votes it would likely collect in the voting process to select the host.
"It was a difficult decision. Not getting support and losing will not lead to anything better in the future," Tashima said. "We had thought about this for a couple of weeks, but this is the best decision considering all of the factors."
Japan had been bidding against Colombia, as well as a joint entry from Australia and New Zealand. The neighboring South Pacific nations emerged as the frontrunner on June 10, when FIFA released its bid evaluations.
Australia and New Zealand garnered the highest overall average score of 4.1 out of 5, with Japan scoring 3.9 and Colombia 2.8. Scores were based on a range of factors including stadiums and accommodation.
Tashima revealed that the one-year postponement of the Tokyo Olympics, caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic, had caused the JFA to reconsider its bid because it was unlikely one country could host two major women's soccer tournaments in a short time frame.
The JFA had also been unable to campaign enough to the federations of each continent due to the pandemic, Tashima added.
While the Japanese bid was praised for the quality of its infrastructure and commercial viability, FIFA also noted that its preferred July-August window corresponded to the hottest part of Japan's summer.
The JFA had identified the period from 2020 to 2023 as a crucial window for the development of women's soccer in Japan, spanning the original date for the Tokyo Olympics to the World Cup.
The professional WE League is set to kick off in 2021, supplanting the Nadeshiko League as the top tier of women's club soccer in Japan.
"Japan needs to host the World Cup at some point in the future," Tashima said. "I think this decision will not prevent the sport from developing (in the country)."
The 2023 Women's World Cup will feature 32 teams. Japan have played in all eight tournaments since the inaugural event in 1991, and won the 2011 edition in Germany.