The FBI's investigation of bribery and corruption at FIFA includes scrutiny of how football's governing body awarded World Cup hosting rights to Russia and Qatar, a US law enforcement official said.
Russia and Qatar have denied wrongdoing in the conduct of their bids for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments, which were not the subject of charges announced by US prosecutors a week ago against FIFA officials that stunned world football.
The US law enforcement official, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the review of the bids would be part of a probe that goes beyond the indictments. Among issues the FBI is examining is the stewardship of FIFA by longtime president Sepp Blatter, who unexpectedly announced on Tuesday he was resigning shortly before it emerged that he too was under investigation by US law enforcement.
Authorities said last week that they were investigating a case of $150 million (£97.8 million) paid in bribes over two decades while Swiss prosecutors announced their own criminal inquiry into the 2018 and 2022 bids.
On Wednesday, the partially blacked out transcript of the November 2013 guilty plea of Chuck Blazer, a US citizen and FIFA executive committee member from 1997 to 2013, showed that Blazer and others in FIFA agreed to accept bribes in bidding for the 1998 and 2010 World Cups and other tournaments.
The tournament was hosted by France but separate court documents contain the prosecutors' allegation that bidding nation Morocco paid a bribe to another FIFA executive, Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago, and that Blazer acted as the intermediary. Warner has denied this and other charges against him.
Many of the details were previously revealed in charging documents released by prosecutors when they announced indictments for 14 people, including nine FIFA officials.
Brazil hosted the World Cup in 2014 but in the case of Qatar, there was some surprise that the tournament was awarded to a small desert country with no real football tradition and where daytime summer temperatures can top 40 degrees Celsius (104F).
Qatar's Foreign Minister Khaled al-Attiyah said there was no way Qatar would be stripped of its right to host the World Cup because it had the best bid.
"It is very difficult for some to digest that an Arab Islamic country has this tournament, as if this right can't be for an Arab state," he told Reuters in an interview in Paris. "I believe it is because of prejudice and racism that we have this bashing campaign against Qatar."
For its part, Russia dismissed concerns it might lose the right to host the cup. "Cooperation with FIFA is going on and, most importantly, Russia is continuing preparations for the 2018 World Cup," President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said.
US authorities said last week that their announcement was the beginning and not the end of the investigation. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the Department of Justice looked forward to continuing to work with other countries.
A source close to FIFA said it was Blatter's advisers who had told him he must quit. Critics pointed to the widening criminal probe, disquiet among sponsors, and pressure from European football body UEFA as possible reasons.
The international police organisation Interpol put two former top FIFA officials on its wanted list at the request of US authorities.
Interpol issued wanted person alerts for Warner, a former president of CONCACAF, which governs football in North and Central America and the Caribbean, and Nicolas Leoz, the ex-head of South America's football federation.
The others subject to the "red notices" - which are not arrest warrants - are Alejandro Burzaco, Hugo and Mariano Jinkis, and Jose Margulies, a Brazilian who headed two companies involved in broadcasting football matches.
They are among FIFA officials and sports media and promotion executives named in the US indictment.
FIFA has denied that another senior official, Secretary General Jerome Valcke, was involved in a $10 million payment approved by the South African Football Association that lies at the heart of the US investigation.
At a news conference in Johannesburg, sports minister Fikile Mbalula confirmed the payment to Warner during the bid process but denied it was a bribe. Mbalula said the cash was intended for football development in the Caribbean, Warner's home region.
Valcke said on Wednesday he was not guilty of corrupt practise relating to the payment and he saw no reason to resign.
Blatter announced his decision to step down six days after police raided a hotel in Zurich and arrested several FIFA officials, and four days after he was re-elected to a fifth term. Blatter has not been charged and FIFA did not respond to a request for comment on his being under investigation.
An election to choose a new president will probably not take place until at least December. Blatter, meanwhile, remains in his position.
FIFA executive committee member Kozo Tashima of Japan told Japanese media that Blatter should go at once.