And that in turn means England will no longer stake a claim for the 2022 event, instead focusing all their attentions on the tournament in eight years' time.

The US had been the last non-European bidders remaining in the race for 2018 following Australia's withdrawal in June, and remained in contention for both 2018 and 2022.

Today's decision leaves England's as one of four European bids for 2018, up against Russia and joint bids by Belgium/Holland and Spain/Portugal.

With FIFA statutes preventing two successive World Cups being held in the same continent, the race for the 2022 tournament will now be between Australia, Japan, South Korea, Qatar and the USA.

USA bid committee executive director David Downs told Press Association Sport two months ago: "At this point, no-one has offered us a compelling enough reason to drop out of the running for 2018."

But the chairman of the committee, Sunil Gulati, today said: "For some time we have been in conversations with FIFA and UEFA about the possibility of focusing only on the 2022 bidding process, an option we have made reference to many times.

"We are confident this is in the best interests of the USA bid.

"We wanted to make the announcement now - still 48 days before the final decision - in order to make our intentions clear during the last part of our campaign.

"This also enables FIFA to finalise the selection procedures during its upcoming scheduled executive committee meeting."

That meeting will take place in Zurich on October 28 and 29.

FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke, echoing comments he made at the time of the Australian decision, said: "We have had an open and constructive dialogue with the USA bid for some time now, after it became apparent that there was a growing movement to stage the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Europe.

"The announcement today by the USA bid to focus solely on the 2022 FIFA World Cup is therefore a welcome gesture which is much appreciated by FIFA."

A statement from the England bid team followed shortly afterwards in which they too welcomed the USA's decision and confirmed the formality of their withdrawal from the 2022 race.

The statement read: "England 2018/22 today confirmed to FIFA that it was withdrawing its candidature from the FIFA World Cup 2022 and will now focus on its bid to host the tournament in 2018.

"This followed consultation with UEFA president Michel Platini on the most appropriate moment to withdraw.

"England 2018 is delighted it is now clear the FIFA World Cup will be coming to Europe in 2018 following the withdrawal of the United States bid."

The 2018 bid continued apace today as Prime Minister David Cameron met his Trinidad and Tobago counterpart Kamla Persad-Bissessar to canvas support.

Mrs Persad-Bissessar is a political ally of FIFA vice-president Jack Warner, who is a member of her cabinet as well as head of the north and central American football federation CONCACAF.

With CONCACAF wielding three votes on FIFA's executive committee, Mr Warner will be an influential voice when the 2018 hosts are chosen on December 2. Mr Cameron's predecessor Gordon Brown met him for face-to-face talks during a visit to Trinidad last year.

After today's meeting at Downing Street, a Number 10 spokesman said: "The Prime Minister congratulated Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar on her country's work as chair in office of the Commonwealth. They agreed to work closely to help the organisation realise its enormous potential, particularly in fostering international trade.

"The Prime Minister also updated Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar on England's bid to stage the 2018 World Cup and the lasting legacy the tournament could have worldwide, and encouraged Trinidad and Tobago to support England's bid."

FIFA president Sepp Blatter visited Mr Cameron on Wednesday at Downing Street, where he saw a presentation by ambassadors for the England bid.