[ANALYSIS] Recent comments by some of its Asian rivals suggest they view the United States as the favorite to earn the FIFA executive committee's backing to host the 2022 World Cup when it meets on Dec. 2 in Zurich. But the U.S. bid is by no means considered a lock. Here's a look at its four rivals -- Australia, Japan, Qatar and South Korea -- those leading their bids and how they rank ...
1. QATAR. Backed by Qatari Mohamed Bin Hammam, the president of the Asian Football Confederation, Qatar is making a strong case for becoming the first Arab nation to host the World Cup.
Its pitch: Temperatures hover around 110 degrees in the summer, so Qatar plans on installing solar-powered cooling systems that would be installed in the 12 proposed stadiums and allow fans to watch the games in comfort. Qatar's overall plans call for $42.9 billion to be spent on infrastructure, including the construction of a new city to hold 200,000 inhabitants.
Its supremo: Bin Hammam, named Asian Football Confederation president in 2002, is credited with developing Asian soccer during his tenure. He made news last year when he threatened to cut off the head of Korea Football Association head Cho Chung Yeon for South Korea's backing of Bahraini Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Khalifa in an election for Bin Hammam's seat on the FIFA executive committee. Bin Hammam, who narrowly survived by a 23-21 vote, once considered challenging FIFA president Sepp Blatter, calling for the introduction of term limits on the three-term president, but this summer he ruled out plans to run for FIFA president next year.
Its campaign: Qatar is country of only 1.6 million people -- many of them expatriate workers -- and it has little infrastructure to welcome thousands of fans. Even Chilean Harold Mayne-Nicholls, who headed the FIFA inspection group, came out and said that Qatar faces a "number of logistical challenges." But earlier in the year, Blatter hinted that a Qatar World Cup is a possibility, saying on a trip of Qatar last spring the Arab world deserves a World Cup. Will politics trump logistics?
Its chances: Bin Hammam recently complained about the 2022 World Cup host being decided in conjunction with the 2018 World Cup host. He suggested that the makeup of the FIFA executive committee will change in the next few years and that group would be better suited to decide the 2022 host down the road. Bin Hammam's concerns suggest he doesn't like how the current executive committee is leaning ...
2. SOUTH KOREA. Co-host along with Japan in 2002, South Korea is back in the running for 2022, though its campaign has been decidedly less visible than when its aggressive bid allowed it to make up for the early lead archrival Japan had and force FIFA to agree on an uneasy co-hosting arrangement.
Its pitch: South Korea's bid has a political and financial component. Its political legacy is promoting peace with North Korea. (South Korea offers to play games in its communist neighbor, whether they're unified or not.) South Korea also intends to create a Global Football Development Fund -- a 12-year, pre-2022 program that would distribute $777 million among FIFA’s confederations. (That's on top of the $350 million profit it hopes to make on the finals.)
Its supremo: Chung Mong Joon, heir to the Hyundai fortune and one of South Korea's most powerful politicians, engineered South Korea's successful 2002 bid. Chung, who earned a PhD from Johns Hopkins University, was only 43 when he was named to the FIFA executive committee in 1994 and is one of its most influential members. Chung supported opponents to Blatter in the 1998 and 2002 presidential campaigns and even recently hinted at making a challenge in 2011 before backtracking.
Its chances: While the legacy factor would work against South Korea -- it just hosted the World Cup eight years ago -- it's the likely "compromise candidate" in case the FIFA executive committee prefers an Asian candidate over the United States. That's if FIFA doesn't wait to give China the World Cup in 2026. Chung has complained that the USA was promoting China 2026's candidacy to eliminate its 2022 competition. (The 2026 World Cup could not go to China if the 2022 World Cup went to an Asian country.) "My Asian colleagues believe that, if true, such attempts definitely deserve a yellow card, if not red," Chung said recently in London.
3. AUSTRALIA. Australia has aggressively campaigned to win the 2022 World Cup, but its bid has been fraught with p.r. problems.
Its pitch: Australia prides itself on being a sports -- and sports-event -- nation. It hosted the 1948 Melbourne Olympics and 2000 Sydney Olympics, the 2003 Rugby World Cup and two FIFA World Youth Cups (1981 and 2003).
Its supremo: Billionaire Frank Lowy was born to a Jewish family in Czechoslovakia, moved to Hungary during World War II and eventually made his way to Palestine. He was 22 when he left Israel for Australia and made his fortune in the development of shopping malls -- the Westfield Group -- around the world. He took charge of Football Federation Australia in 2003 and has made it his cause to bring the 2022 World Cup to Australia. Lowy, who turns 80 this month, has wined and dined FIFA executive committee members on his $80 million yacht, Ilona.
Its campaign: Australia looked to be a serious challenger, but it bid campaign was slow to get the support of Australia's rugby sports because the World Cup would create stadium conflicts. Press reports about multi-million-dollar fees going to European lobbyists didn't help, nor did stories about the legitimacy of some gifts.
Its chances: When Australia failed to turn up at the recent Leaders in Football conference in London -- it was the only one of the nine World Cup bidders to not attend -- U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati got in a dig, asking reporters whether “Australia pulled out of the bid completely?” Lowy, who called Gulati's remarks an "unwelcome snipe," says he's "reasonably confident" that Australia will prevail. Not exactly a ringing endorsement.
4. JAPAN. The co-host along with South Korea in 2002, it's considered a longshot to host in 2022.
Its pitch: Japan plans on employing holographic TV technology.
Its supremo: Junji Ogura, recently reinstalled as president of the Japanese Football Association and the Japanese bid committee in place of Motoaki Inukai, is a member of the 24-member FIFA executive committee.
Its campaign: Japan's technology-based campaign is viewed by some as a gimmick. Consultant Patrick Nally, whose work with FIFA dates to the 1970s when he instituted its first marketing programs, acknowledges it's difficult to communicate to executive committee members exactly what the Japan bid means.
Its chances: Japan is considered the weakest of the five 2022 bidders.