FIFA president Sepp Blatter has warned that England face serious competition to host the 2018 World Cup.
Blatter met Chancellor Gordon Brown, sports minister Richard Caborn and Football Association chairman Geoff Thompson today for talks on a World Cup bid but he told them there was no guarantee the 2018 tournament would be held in Europe.
The USA, China and Australia are all possible rivals though the key decision on which continent will stage the World Cup will be taken by FIFA's executive committee in November.
Blatter told a media briefing in London: 'You can understand the eagerness of England, supported by the politicians and the public, to host the World Cup in the motherland of football for the first time since 1966.
'But it all depends on the decision by the executive committee later this year about rotation.
'The USA want to bid, as do Australia, and the Beijing Olympic football tournament organisers have said they want to host the World Cup too.'
FIFA agreed a rotation policy to take the 2010 tournament to Africa and 2014 to South America, but may revert to having an open contest for 2018.
A strict continent-by-continent rotation policy would see the 2018 tournament go to North America, but the eight European members on FIFA's 24-strong executive committee could prove decisive in returning the tournament to a UEFA country.
Blatter added: 'The executive committee must take a decision whether the rotation should include all the confederations, in which case the 2018 World Cup should be in CONCACAF (north and central America).
'They could also decide that the Americas should be considered as one - and then rotation could go to Asia.
'It may also be that the majority of the FIFA executive committee, where you have eight European representatives, can find the 13 votes needed [for the World Cup to return to Europe].'
On a positive note for England's chances, Blatter told the Chancellor he was very impressed with the country's stadium infrastructure.
FA chairman Geoff Thompson made the point to Blatter that all the other four major European countries had staged the tournament since 1966 - twice in Germany's case.
Thompson said: 'We told him we feel we are in the right place, with the right infrastructure and the best stadia in the world.
'We said it would be good to bring the game home again. We gave the game to the world and it would be nice, a few years away from our 150th anniversary, to have it back in England.'
Blatter also told Brown that having a Great Britain team at the 2012 Olympic tournament would not affect the separate status of the four home nations within FIFA.
The Scottish and Welsh FAs have so far made it clear they do not want to be involved in Olympic football teams.
Blatter added: 'This would not affect their status, it is not a concern that FIFA have.'
Blatter also made it clear he supports the introduction of goal-line technology - several systems will be proposed to the International FA Board meeting on Saturday.
He said: 'When a goal is scored, the goal should be given - this is a priority and there must be a system.'
Speaking at function in London tonight, Blatter insisted England would stand a good chance of hosting the 2018 World Cup but that Russia could also mount a European challenge.
The FIFA president said: 'I know there are other countries who would like to have the World Cup, Europe does not stop with the European Union, you have to also consider Russia.
'But yes if it comes back to Europe, England would have a very good chance because they have the best technical infrastructure, organisation of security, and safe and confident stadiums.
'It's an example to the world.'
Blatter also poured scorn on rumours that the 2010 World Cup would not be held in South Africa.
He added: 'Please book now because 2010 will be in South Africa, I have no doubts about that.
'There were some hesitations but they are on the right track now, definitely.'