Deadline day's been and gone. The applications are in - or are they? These men hope to replace FIFA President Sepp Blatter. Diplomats, royalty, a political prisoner turned mining mogul, and ex-footballers have applied.
Up to eight candidates, depending on Michel Platini's ultimate fate, have now joined the race for the top functionary job in world football. That field should shrink before the vote, planned for February 26, 2016. Some candidates are bound to realize that they lack either money or support between then and now. If Platini can run in the end, then his UEFA understudy Gianni Infantino's bid would seem baseless. What's more, all candidates will have to clear the "integrity check" that's now pending from FIFA's audit and compliance committee. This in-house watchdog led by Domenico Scala has gained some teeth of late. After all, either FIFA's own investigators clean house voluntarily, or Swiss and US prosecutors may do so by force.
Besides Platini, who is suspended from all football activities for 90 days and currently unable to apply, the remaining seven hopefuls say they've put in their bids, winning the requisite support of five national football associations. FIFA have said that if Platini's suspension is lifted in time for the vote, then he "may" be able to join the race.
The Platini vacuum
The uncertainty around Platini's candidacy has clouded the rest of the race, guaranteeing a good deal of horse-trading between now and February.
Influential Kuwaiti powerbroker Sheikh Ahmed al Fahad al-Sabah - technically with the International Olympic Committee but also influential among FIFA functionaries - had initially planned to support Platini, probably bringing a sizeable chunk of the Asian Football Confederation with him. Add that to likely broad UEFA support, and Platini would have been basically home and dry, needing just a handful more ballots from further afield.
Now, Bahraini royal Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa has joined the race with Sheikh Ahmed's support, thus appearing to be a potential front-runner in the initial field. For Sheikh Salman, the integrity checks could be a crucial hurdle - but not because of FIFA's more typical graft issues. The royal is accused of complicity in Bahrain's suppression of the 2011 protests that started the Arab Spring - rights abuses are included in the integrity check criteria. In a BBC interview, Sheikh Salman called the allegations "false, nasty lies which have been repeated again and again in the past and the present."
South African solution?
FIFA's own rule saying any applicant must prove full-time work in football for two of the past five years, introduced in 2011, helps explain the rather nepotistic feel to the candidate line-up. Seven either work or worked at FIFA, six either have or had close ties to Blatter - none are really being treated as an obvious breath of fresh football air.
Tokyo Sexwale (not pronounced as you might think) of South Africa is arguably the only candidate who's both a realistic winner and also somewhat removed from the "old FIFA." He's bidding to become FIFA's first ever African or black president.
During Apartheid, Sexwale served 13 years of an 18-year prison term at Robben Island with Nelson Mandela. Now a mining and energy magnate, and the former host of South Africa's version of reality TV show "The Apprentice," he has first-hand experience of far-reaching political reform. That said, he was also part of South Africa's 2010 World Cup bid team, accused by US investigators of an eight-figure inappropriate payment to Trinidad's disgraced Jack Warner (whose legacy could scupper more than one presidential bid).
Sexwale's first hurdle in his personal race to the presidency would be to oust surprise candidate Musa Bility of Liberia, who's already said that he would step aside and support Sexwale if Africa's football confederation asked him to. With unified support from FIFA's most numerous confederation in terms of votes, long the bedrock of Sepp Blatter's dominance, Sexwale would be on an interesting trajectory.
An outsider, and an outcast
Two candidates in particular claim not to be part of the FIFA establishment. Jerome Champagne's not anymore, although for roughly a decade he was considered a key ally of Blatter and Platini. He's now trying to balance his campaign for a "new FIFA," with an "I regret nothing" approach to his years rising to be deputy secretary general under Blatter. Champagne wanted to run in May's election but eventually withdrew because he couldn't secure five countries' support.
David Nakhid, meanwhile, has not worked for FIFA. The Trinidadian, formerly a midfielder with 35 international caps, qualifies for two years service in football via his chain of football academies. A little like Liberia's Bility, he says that a complete change at the top is the only way to reform the organization. Asked about his links to countryman Jack Warner, Nakhid claims to have been a staunch opponent of arguably FIFA's most notorious former functionary.
That leaves only the man who stood against Blatter in this May's vote, overshadowed rather by the FBI crashing the party. Although receiving favorable odds from some bookmakers, Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan could only force Blatter to an embarrassing runoff this summer. Having done that, he spared Blatter the indignity of a second round of voting, stepping aside before the ballot. His reform credentials seem strong, as a leading advocate of releasing in full the report from prosecutor Michael Garcia, hired by FIFA to investigate Russia and Qatar's successful World Cup bids. However, even in his home region, he'll be fighting for support with Sheikh Salman of Bahrain, the head of Asia's confederation.