2018 & 2022 World Cups to be chosen together

TOKYO - Football's governing body FIFA announced on Saturday that the host country for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments will be decided at the same time. Following an executive committee meeting in Tokyo, FIFA president Sepp Blatter said the bid process will be launched next month with the two hosts to be announced in December 2010. There would be no block on countries bidding for both tournaments. Blatter confirmed there was interest from North America to Australia. He said England, which has not staged a World Cup since 1966, would be a front-runner for 2018. "England will be a strong candidate but there are other strong candidates," Blatter told reporters. "There is Spain -- Spain alone or in conjunction with Portugal. "We have another interesting document from the Netherlands and Belgium together. Maybe Qatar, not having been considered for the Olympics, will go for the World Cup. The fight is open." Jostling for 2018 has already begun in earnest, with Australia, China, Mexico and Russia also having indicated their interest. Brazil is scheduled to host the 2014 World Cup. FIFA's simultaneous bid plan is thought to be in part in order to give future host countries more time to complete major infrastructure work at a time of global economic recession. FIFA recently said South Africa's rush to complete the construction needed to host the 2010 World Cup was proof more time was needed by future hosts. "It will also be a good opportunity for sponsors and marketing partners to be reserved in 2018 and 2022," said Blatter. "When everyone is speaking of recession we have to consider it will also touch our game. FIFA is in a safe position with $800 million in reserves but we must also look at our partners. "Sponsorship (trouble) has affected other international sports -- cricket and Formula One. We can't just say football will be safe."