Simon Kuper, the soccer columnist of the Financial Times and a former Soccer America contributor, runs down the candidates for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, to be decided by the 24 men on FIFA’s executive committee on Dec. 2. His frontrunners? Russia for 2018 and the USA for 2022.
For 2018, Russia gets the nod ahead of England (too arrogant), Spain-Portugal (financial issues) and Belgium-Netherlands (who cares?) because of its lobbying power. Vladimir Putin's support is crucial.
As for the USA, it has the stadiums and fans to make FIFA a pile of money. But the 2022 race may be decided by a country not even bidding. China's expression of interest in bidding in 2026 might trump the bids of the other 2022 Asia nations -- Qatar, Australia, South Korea and Japan -- meaning the USA gets the 2022 tournament by default.
The World Cup can't go a country in the same confederation twice in a row, so FIFA may wait until 2026 to return to Asia and give it to China, the biggest untapped soccer market in the world.