(WFI) Russia narrows the gap on England in the third edition of World Football INSIDER's World Cup Bid Power Index, which shows the relative strengths and weaknesses of the nine bids for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
Qatar slides out of the top three for the first time this year.
With 64 days until the FIFA Executive Committee decision on the tournament hosts, the bid power index looks very different from the May edition.
The new rankings reflect the merits of bid campaigning at the World Cup in South Africa and FIFA's verdict on the bids following its series of inspection visits.
England remain in pole position in the bid race but Russia - their main rivals for the 2018 tournament - are just one point behind. The USA leapfrog Qatar to move into third spot.
Across 10 categories, England scores 68 out of 100 possible points (up 3 points). Russia follows with 67 (up 5 points), with USA on 66 (up 5 points) and Qatar on 65 (up 2 points). Holland-Belgium and South Korea both have 61 points, with Australia a point adrift.
Failure to build on their early momentum is costing the other two bids, who have sub-60 scores; Spain-Portugal and Japan have lacked spark and dynamism in their campaigns over the summer and have much work to do to stand any chance of winning the FIFA vote.
The INSIDER Bid Power Index is the only regularly published review of World Cup bids that is based on expert analysis and first-hand contact with the bid nations, including interviews with bid leaders and information and figures from each of the bid launches.
The rankings are not meant to predict the outcome of the FIFA vote on Dec. 2, but to show the merits and drawbacks of the bidding nations at regular intervals before the decision.
The 10 categories are: bid operations/leadership; wow factor and unique selling points; relations with FIFA Executive Committee members; cost and funding resources; government and public support; international PR; venue plans; security; transport and accommodation; and legacy.
For the complete index as well as in-depth analysis of each bid's strengths and weaknesses, click here.
Written by Mark Bisson and James Corbett.