South Africa, Italy, Ireland and France are the four nations in the running to host the Rugby World Cup in 2023.
A World Rugby Technical Review Group will now assess the quartet of applicants to judge their suitability and those who pass will move on to the candidate phase in November.
World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said the organisation is "delighted" with the four nations that have made offers to host the tournament.
"We are delighted by the strong level of serious interest from unions and governments, which truly underscores the enormous hosting appeal of Rugby World Cup as a low-investment, low-risk, high-return economic, social and sporting driver," Beaumont said.
"Great events are built on strong partnerships and this process represents a major milestone in the planning and preparation phase for unions and supporting government agencies who intend to bid for Rugby World Cup 2023.
"We welcome further dialogue with all parties as the process progresses to the candidate phase and we continue the process to confirm our next host."
The Rugby World Cup is set to take place in Japan in 2019, with New Zealand the defending champions after they beat rivals Australia 34-17 to retain the Webb Ellis Cup.