[WORLD CUP 2018/22 BIDS] It's down to the home stretch in the race for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Only one more night of feverish lobbying and the 2018 bid presentations on Thursday morning before the 22-man FIFA executive committee votes. The 2018 race took a shocking turn Wednesday as Russia seemed to be fading following Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's statement that he wouldn't headed to Zurich because of "unscrupulous competition." England was gaining ground on Spain-Portugal, which was still considered the favorite. It looks like it is down to the USA and Qatar in the 2022 race. Here's the case for and against the USA and its four competitors ...
Why the USA will win? It's FIFA's insurance policy if it goes with risky Spain-Portugal or Russia in 2018 ... It offers record revenues -- far more than any other bidder ... Its stadiums are ready ... Executive committee members love visiting (Michel Platini has his golf bag packed).
Why the USA will lose? South Africa '10 wasn't the bust many folks expected it to be so World Cup risk factor has been devalued ... It has already had the World Cup ... World Cup isn't a state affair like it is in other countries ... Asian soccer politics.
Why Qatar will win? Money is no object ... It has the support from the royal family ... It will be the first World Cup in the Middle East -- strong legacy. It's all set out in the best of Wednesday's five 2018 presentations, featuring Sheikha Mozah, wife of the emir.
Why Qatar will lose? Even Qatari Mohamed Bin Hammam, the Asian Football Confederation president, admitted you can't play in the summer when the AFC decided to hold the 2011 Asian Cup in January ... FIFA can't afford more image problems if Qatar is seen as having "bought" the 2022 World Cup.
Why Australia will win? One of the few great sporting nations to have never hosted the World Cup ... It offers a World Cup in prime time to the growing Asian consumer market.
Why Australia will lose? It's USA light, a sports market where soccer struggles in the face of competition from other sports but with less than one-tenth the size... It has the least favorable time zone -- for the European and American market -- of any bidder.
Why South Korea will win? Soccer can help bring peace to the Korean peninsula ... Dr. Chung Moon-Joon is one of most respected politicians on the executive committee.
Why South Korea will lose? It just had the World Cup eight years ago ... Chung's soccer political future doesn't depend on deals cut around the World Cup.
Why Japan will win? It won't happen.
Why Japan will lose? It ran the weakest of the five 2022 bid campaigns.