12 candidates competing to host World Cup

BERNE, Switzerland - Up to 12 bids from across four continents are expected to compete to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups as the deadline approaches for countries to put their names forward.

The list of potential bidders to have expressed their initial interest in staging one of the tournaments grew to a dozen on Monday when FIFA confirmed the late entry of Egypt and South Korea.

World soccer's governing body is due to publish the final list on Tuesday. Barring any further late additions it should comprise five bids from Asia, four from Europe, two from the Americas and one from Africa.

South Korea and Japan, who jointly hosted the World Cup in 2002, will go up against each other this time round with Indonesia, Qatar and Australia completing the Asian quintet.

The 1966 World Cup hosts England face competition on their own continent from Russia and joint applicants Spain/Portugal and Netherlands/Belgium.

Egypt, Mexico and 1994 hosts the United States complete the list.

There is confusion though over FIFA president Sepp Blatter's opposition to joint bids and the extent to which his views reflect official policy.

Blatter told reporters at a meeting of the South American Football Confederation last week that "as soon as there is a (sole) candidacy or three or four relevant candidacies, we are directly going to reject the double candidacies".

SPAIN PRESSURE

A spokesman told Reuters on Monday that FIFA would consider joint bids from countries who were not capable of hosting a World Cup on their own.

"Countries capable of staging the event alone should do so," added the spokesman in a clarification that will increase pressure on Spain to ditch its planned partnership with Portugal.

FIFA rules dictate World Cup finals can only be staged on continents that have not hosted either of the two preceding editions, meaning bidders will primarily have to concern themselves with seeing off their nearest geographical rivals.

If the European and Asian members of FIFA's executive committee fail to agree on the strongest candidate in their regions during the final vote in December 2010, the United States, Mexico or Egypt could benefit.

South American countries were unable to put themselves forward for either tournament due to Brazil's scheduled hosting of the 2014 version.

Following South Africa's staging of the 2010 World Cup, African nations were free to apply for the 2022 event but Egypt look set to be the only ones to do so.

The bidding process has been further complicated by FIFA's decision to offer up two World Cups simultaneously.

FIFA is yet to reveal how the process will work or whether the 24-member executive committee will first choose the 2018 hosts before turning to 2022.

The ruling body will send full details of the bidding process to all applicants on February 16.

Final bid dossiers have to be submitted by May 2010 with FIFA's executive committee casting its decisive votes seven months later.