LANGOKIDS: LAS VEGAS (AP) All-Australia footballers with the best chance of breaking into the national team are all heading to Australia, where the sport is growing fast.
More than 100 players from the United States, Europe and Asia are scheduled to train for the opening game of the 2019 FIFA World Cup in Japan on June 6.
The International Federation of Basketball Federation (FIFA) and the Australian Basketball Federation are among the other professional leagues in Australia that are also interested in playing the tournament.
It is not known how many Australian players will participate in the first game, which is the biggest sporting event of the year.
Players from the top six nations of the FIFA rankings — England, France, Germany, Spain and Italy — are scheduled for the games.
The sport is also expected to become a lucrative business in Australia with sponsorship and ticket sales expected to reach $3 billion this year.
But there are growing concerns that the sport could be taking a hit if the Olympics are cancelled.
Australia is home to about 10,000 professional athletes, and it has seen its popularity fall by 10 per cent over the past three years due to the Olympics.
“Australia has always had a very high level of participation and I think this year is going to be a really good year for the sport,” Australian Rules Football Association chief executive Paul Pritchard said.
For example, the FFA recently announced it would no longer play any international events, except in the Asia Cup, due to low attendance.
Pritchard also said it was possible the sport would be hit hard.
If we can’t host the Olympics, we might not be able to bring players in, he said.
The Australian Rugby Union (ARU) is expected to host its first international games in 2021, which are expected to be held in Sydney and Melbourne.
Rugby Australia has not announced whether the new season will be played at a venue close to home, which would require a significant increase in capacity.
Former Australia captain Scott Higginbotham, who won the 2016 Rugby World Cup, said he was looking forward to the games being played in Sydney.
He said the sport was growing but there were still plenty of issues to be sorted out before the sport’s future was secure.
“If you have a very young, young country, a very vibrant sport, a lot of the issues have not been addressed,” he said, “which is a shame.”
I’m looking forward for the rugby to come through.