As if he were a game show host, FIFA boss Sepp Blatter announced this week that three nations were prepared to step in and host the 2010 World Cup, but did not reveal the nations involved. Blatter's statement, the strongest indication yet that South Africa are in jeopardy of losing out on hosting the 2010 World Cup, leaves an international guessing game to determine who are in line.
The first logical choice seemed to be Germany, which did a flawless job hosting the 2006 World Cup and obviously has the infrastructure in place. But a return to Bavaria was quickly squelched by German FA chief Theo Zwanziger this week.
1970 and 1986 hosts Mexico are apparently on the list, with the Mexican FA announcing Saturday that they are ready to roll. Mexico has a history of stepping in at the last minute, serving as second-choice hosts in 1986 after a series of problems led to the tournament being moved out of Colombia. But would FIFA send the World Cup South of the Border for the third time in 41 years? I think that's a stretch.
While England have the stadiums in place, the country's sports focus is on the 2012 Olympics in London and a bid for the 2018 World Cup. England would love to put on a grand show nine years from now. I don't seeing them scrambling to host the games in 2010 when they're the heavy favorites for 2018.
A similar situation involves the United States, who are among the best bets to land the 2022 World Cup. While several suitable venues are ready, stadium issues in the nation's two largest cities make the USA unlikely substitutes. The new Giants Stadium outside of New York is scheduled to be finished by August 2010. Once complete, it will be an ideal venue for a World Cup Final, but it's doubtful the construction schedule could be moved up to make it World Cup-ready by June 2010. On the other side of the country, the 1994 Final venue, the Rose Bowl, no longer meets FIFA standards with regards to premium seating. Los Angeles' myriad of problems involving a new NFL stadium won't be fixed by 2010 either. Those factors in NY and LA probably keep the US on the sidelines for another decade.
Who else makes sense? Spain, Italy and France all have solid stadiums and transportation in place. Spain hasn't hosted since 1982. If you assume England gets 2018, the rest of Europe likely doesn't get another crack until 2026. That would make the timing right to give the reigning European champs a chance to fill in. Italy, which last hosted in 1990, also fit the criteria.
So if FIFA decides to move the 2010 World Cup, I'll put the odds on the following nations hosting: