Fifa has dropped its policy of rotating the World Cup between continents, opening the way for England to bid to stage the tournament in 2018.
A number of strong contenders are expected to bid for 2018
The Football Association said the news was "very encouraging" and said there was a strong case for England to bid.
Chief executive Brian Barwick said: "It is exactly what we were hoping for and we will now discuss a timetable for a potential bid."
Prime Minister Gordon Brown said an FA bid would have full government support.
"I am delighted that Fifa have opened the door for the World Cup to come back to England," he said. "By 2018, it will be 52 years since England hosted the World Cup.
We will make it our mission to persuade other countries to back us in bringing the World Cup back to England
"The nation which gave football to the world deserves to have the greatest tournament back on these shores.
"With the Olympics in 2012, possibly the Commonwealth Games in 2014, the Rugby World Cup in 2015 and the Cricket World Cup in 2019, a Football World Cup in 2018 would crown what I believe can be the greatest decade ever for British sport.
"If the FA decide to go ahead and bid for the tournament, they know they will have the full support of the government behind them, and we will make it our mission to persuade other countries to back us in bringing the World Cup back to England."
England are likely to face stiff competition though, with the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg already making a joint offer to host the event, while China, Australia, Mexico, the United States, Russia and Spain have also expressed interest.
Countries belonging to confederations that hosted the two preceding tournaments are barred from applying.
For 2018, that would rule out bids from Africa or South America, with South Africa hosting the tournament in 2010 and Brazil poised to be confirmed as 2014 hosts this week.
Barwick added: "We have already received tremendous support from Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the government, and we all recognise the importance of government support in any bidding process.
"We realise there will be strong competition involved in any bidding process, but we know that England has fantastic stadiums, a unique tradition and passion for the game and also a very strong infrastructure already in place.
"If we do bid, and England is awarded the 2018 World Cup, I'm sure it would be brilliant for English football and the whole country."
BBC Radio 5 Live's sports news correspondent Gordon Farquhar said Fifa thought it had made a "tactical mistake" in its rotation policy in that the continents were deciding internally who their candidates should be.
"It worked OK for Africa because there was competition but for South America, they all stood squarely behind Brazil and that was the only candidate put forward.
"I think there's a concern that when you do that you don't get the best possible outcome because you don't have candidates competing against one another."
With four continental bodies able to bid for 2018 (Asia, Oceania, Concacaf and Europe) Farquhar believes there will be a 2018 bid from Australia.
"Who knows, there is the prospect of the US or even Canada, Jamaica or Mexico coming forward from Concacaf," he added.