The competition for a potential joint Korean bid for the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup has increased to nine countries.
FIFA announced Tuesday that Belgium has joined South Korea and eight other previous candidates in the running to host the showpiece event in women's football.
Also in the running are Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Japan, New Zealand and South Africa.
In April, South Korea submitted a sole bid for the tournament, with FIFA noting that South Korea expressed "interest in a joint bid with" North Korea.
FIFA decided at the end of July to expand the 2023 Women's World Cup from 24 teams to 32 teams and subsequently reopened the bidding process that had initially closed in April. Belgium threw their hat into the ring, adding to an already record number of countries expressing interest for the quadrennial tournament.
FIFA said these 10 member associations must confirm their participation in the bidding by Sept. 2, and the door will remain open for others to join the fray until then.
Once the list of candidates is finalized, FIFA will send bidding and hosting documents to the bidders on Sept. 3. Those countries will have until Dec. 13 to submit their bid book, signed hosting agreement and all other relevant documents to FIFA.
FIFA will then pay official inspection visits during Jan. and Febr. next year. The host country, or countries, will be announced in May 2020.
The Women's World Cup was first held in 1991. The eighth edition of the quadrennial tournament took place in France from June 7 to July 7 this year. The previous hosts were China (twice), Sweden, the United States (twice), Germany and Canada.
The possibility of a joint Korean bid for the tournament surfaced on March 4, when FIFA President Gianni Infantino told the Associated Press: "I have been hearing for the Women's World Cup in 2023, the two Koreas. It would be great."
South Korean officials at the time explained that FIFA had first approached them about the joint bid and that they were carefully considering the proposal.
But the two sides didn't have any follow-up talks, forcing South Korea to go ahead with the sole bid.
The two Koreas, which remain technically at war because the Korean War ended with an armistice, rather than a peace treaty, are also trying to co-host the 2032 Summer Olympics. (Yonhap)