Mexico to bid for 2018 or 2022 World Cup

MEXICO CITY - Mexico is to join the race to host the 2018 or 2022 World Cups, its soccer association said on Friday.

"We have sent our application to enter the process," Mexican Football Federation (FMF) general secretary Decio de Maria told a news conference.

"Mexico has raised its hand (and offered) to host a third World Cup."

The Mexicans staged the tournament in 1970 and 1986, stepping in 23 years ago when Colombia pulled out.

The tournaments were regarded as two of the best in the competition's history in playing terms, despite teams having to contend with intense heat and high altitude.

Pele led Brazil to victory in the 1970 event and a Diego Maradona-inspired Argentina won in 1986.

Both finals were played at the imposing Azteca stadium in Mexico City, which is still the country's most important arena and holds over 100,000 fans.

"Mexico has a name in the world of football, we have already organised two World Cups and a Confederations Cup and I believe we have one of the biggest number of supporters in the world," added De Maria.

"Putting our cards on the table will generate the need to improve stadiums and create new infrastructure."

Santos Laguna, who play in the desert city of Torreon, and Guadalajara are both due to inaugurate new stadiums in 2009.

The demands of staging a World Cup have grown enormously since 1986 and huge improvements are expected to be made to other stadiums as well as Mexico's transport system and other infrastructure.

The country's spiralling crime rate could be a major problem. A vicious drugs war claimed 5,700 lives last year while petty street crime, muggings and express kidnappings are a worry for visitors to the major cities.

England, Japan, Qatar, Russia and Indonesia have formally declared their interest to stage one of the two tournaments and the U.S. has said it will also join the race. Spain and Portugal have put forward a joint behind as have Belgium and Netherlands.

The deadline for candidates to formally express their interest is on Monday and the decision will be made in December 2010.

South Africa will host the 2010 World Cup followed by Brazil in 2014.