WITH less than two months to go until Russia 2018, South American thoughts have already turned to 2030.
The World Cup turns 100 in 12 years’ time, and there is a big push to celebrate the centenary back where it all began.
The continent is justifiably proud of its role in launching the event.
A direct line can be drawn between the start of the Copa America in 1916 and the birth of the World Cup in 1930.
The Copa, held at first on an almost annual basis, did much to raise standards in the region.
Uruguay then amazed the French crowds when they came to the Paris Olympics in 1924 and cruised to the gold medal with a new style of play, artistic and balletic.
Four years later they retained their title in Amsterdam, beating Argentina in the final.
How good were these South Americans? How would they fare against the English professionals, seen at the time as the benchmark of excellence?
TIM VICKERY Argentina’s slim World Cup hopes rest on Lionel Messi and a nation’s mood is summed up by one tweet
A tournament had to be set up open to both amateurs and professionals – and so the World Cup came into existence.
Uruguay staged it, and with the English professionals refusing to turn up, won it as well.
The game’s great showpiece was up and running.
All of this is well worth celebrating.
But there is no way that Uruguay could even dream of staging a modern World Cup on its own.
The little nation has a population of just over three million, and Montevideo is its only city of note.
And so Argentina and Paraguay have come into the mix. A meeting last week put some flesh on the bones.
Argentina plans to use eight cities, with two each in Uruguay and Paraguay.
There is a lot of work to be done, and so the South American authorities asked Fifa to bring forward the decision on staging the competition to 2020, two years earlier than normal, to increase the preparation time.
The three nations plan to lobby for support during the Russia World Cup.
And for all the attractiveness of the centenary idea, such efforts may well be necessary.
The South American Confederation has just ten members – and ten votes is a puny force in comparison to the might of the other continents.
Alliances will have to be constructed.
One clear problem is the fact that the USA, Mexico and Canada bid is the front runner for 2026.
Will the Fifa membership be happy with two consecutive World Cups in the Americas?
This, of course, will mean a long wait for Africa, whose only tournament was in 2010, and an even longer one for Western Europe, which has not staged the competition since 2006.
Giving verbal support to the idea of celebrating the centenary in South America is one thing; actually voting for it might prove to be another.
And with the European clubs unlikely to allow their season to be disrupted again with another move outside the June/July slot, those who cast their votes may well bear in mind the climate in the region at this time of year.
As one who has covered tournaments in all three countries, I can testify that there will be no tropical party going on in Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay.
It is usually a time of bitter cold.