The International Football Federation, FIFA, has officially opened the bidding process for the 2010 World Cup, with 52 African countries vying for the honor of hosting the tournament.

FIFA wrote to the 52 members of the African Football Confederation, CAF, asking them to declare their interests for hosting the World Cup by December of this year. Responding nations will be asked to reconfirm their interest by April 30 of 2003.

Those countries that are confirmed candidates will have until August 31st of next year to submit bid documents. FIFA inspectors will then visit each prospective host and report back to the governing body's executive committee. FIFA will choose the the host nation in May of 2004.

Only African nations are being allowed to bid for the right to host the World Cup after the FIFA executive body decided last year that the tournament should rotate among the continental football confederations.

South Africa was a leading candidate to host the 2006 World Cup, with its bid publicly supported by FIFA President Joseph "Sepp" Blatter. But, the South Africans lost by one vote to Germany in the controversial final round of voting in 2000.