- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 17, 2009

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND (AP) - FIFA announced Tuesday that 11 bidders are officially in the race to host the World Cup in 2018 or 2022.

The candidates are: Australia, England, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Qatar, Russia, South Korea and United States, plus joint bids from Belgium-Netherlands and Spain-Portugal.

Qatar and South Korea have applied only for the 2022 tournament. The other nine candidates are in both races.

FIFA confirmed the candidates after the deadline to formally register bids passed late Monday.

FIFA’s 24-man executive committee will choose the two winning bids in December 2010.

“We are very pleased about the fantastic level of interest in our flagship competition, with all initial bidders confirming their candidature,” FIFA President Sepp Blatter said in a statement. “The diversity and quality of the contenders will make this a very interesting selection process. This shows the importance of the FIFA World Cup as a truly universal event.”

The World Cup, featuring 32 teams playing over four weeks, generates billions of dollars through television, tourism and marketing deals.

Hosts must also commit billions of dollars of investment to stage the event, by building and upgrading stadiums and adding infrastructure of roads, airports and hotels.

Candidates are supposed to provide about 12 stadiums holding at least 40,000 fans for group matches, with one stadium of at least 80,000 capacity to stage the opening match and final.

Five of the bids come from FIFA’s Asian confederation, two from the CONCACAF region of the Americas and four from Europe.

Europe, which currently provides 13 of the 32 teams, is a strong favorite to host in 2018 after the 2010 edition was awarded to South Africa and the 2014 tournament to Brazil.

Five of the bidders have previously staged a World Cup: England in 1966; Mexico in 1970 and 1986; the United States in 1994; and South Korea and Japan as co-hosts in 2002.

Blatter has said that joint bids will likely lose out in favor of a strong proposal from a solo host.

The two co-host candidacies from Europe can be converted to a single-nation option up to the May 2010 deadline for candidates to submit their bid book.

FIFA is scheduled to send out more details of bidding and hosting requirements next month, while candidates must send a signed bidding agreement to Zurich by Dec. 11. Candidates will also be visited by FIFA executive members and officials.

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