England 2018 bid given boost as US pulls out of the running

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The Independent Football

The United states finally withdrew its bid to host the 2018 World Cup finals yesterday, a move which could have positive ramifications for England's chances of hosting the tournament.

The US decision means the 2018 tournament will now definitely go to Europe with Russia, and joint bids from Spain/Portugal and Belgium/Netherlands the other contenders. Under Fifa statutes no continent can host successive finals so the FA, and the other European candidates, immediately withdrew from the 2022 race. That left Australia, Japan, South Korea, Qatar and the US in contention. Both decisions will be made in Zurich on 2 December.

The significance for England of the US move is the impact it may have on the voting. The FA has targeted the three votes possessed by the Concacaf (North and Central America and the Caribbean) members of the 24-man Fifa Executive Committee, which selects the hosts. The FA's efforts have extended to sending an England team, the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and, last month, David Beckham, to Trinidad to cultivate the controversial Jack Warner.

The FA is optimistic that Concacaf will vote for England's bid, but knew Concacaf would do so only after the US was eliminated. So tight is the contest England, without those three votes, could have been eliminated before the US.

The glad-handing continued yesterday with Prime Minister David Cameron, who met the Fifa President, Sepp Blatter, earlier this week, welcoming Kamla Persad-Bissessar, his counterpart in Trinidad & Tobago, to Downing Street. Warner is a member of Persad-Bissessar's cabinet.

The US will now be considered favourites for 2022, in part because China is hinting at bidding in 2026, and Fifa is thought to welcome the prospect. For China to be eligible the 2022 tournament would have to be staged outside Asia, which will happen only if the US wins (Australia are now members of the Asian confederation).

Fifa will decide the voting procedure at its executive committee meeting on 28-29 October.

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