The World Cup boards close a few days after the tournament, so I thought this thread would be of interest now, as we are down to our final four games and won't have too much time to discuss it after the tournament ends. Who will be around for WC 2014? Who might the new candidates be? First, the background. Only 8 referees from 2006 returned in 2010 (though one, Batres, returned from 2002). That being said, a couple major surprises caused a few referees to not be at 2010 (Shield's retirement, Michel's retirement, and Codjia's last-minute blunder). So you could expect a little fewer than half of the officials to return. Second, presuming the retirement age of 45 does not change, the following officials are eligible to return again: Coulibaly (MLI) Damon (RSA) Al Ghamdi (KSA) Irmatov (UZB) Nishimura (JPN) Benquerenca (POR) Busacca (SUI) Hansson (SWE) Kassai (HUN) Lannoy (FRA) Stark (GER) Undiano Mallenco (ESP) Webb (ENG) Aguilar (SLV) Rodriguez (MEX) Hester (NZL) O'Leary (NZL) Pozo (CHI) Ruiz (COL) Vazquez (URU) So of the 29 officials present, 20 are age-eligible for 2014. A lot can happen between now and then (including, potentially, the need for 5-person teams?) but what's the harm in idle speculation... CAF I think it's same to assume we've seen the last of Coulibaly. And it's also fair to assume Damon will be around again. That means Africa needs to find 2-3 new referees to put up. I imagine the candidates are people who are already attending top African competitions, like the 2010 ACN. Benouza of Algeria seems an obvious choice. He's age-eligible and was supposed to go to this tournament before a late injury. Daniel Bennett of South Africa is another potential pick. He's only 34 and is South Africa's #2 after Damon. The only other name I really know is Diatta of Senegal. He's been to multiple African tournaments and is still age-eligible for 2014. But if he hasn't been selected yet, perhaps FIFA just doesn't favor him? He was on the initial candidacy list for 2010 but was dropped before the Fall of 2008, if that says anything. Predictions (3): Damon, Benouza, Diatta AFC Irmatov, Nishimura and Al-Ghamdi can all return. And FIFA seems to like all three. Barring a retirement from Al-Ghamdi, I think all three will be back. So it's about finding the fourth referee. Matthew Breeze is still age-eligible, so hopefully that makes the decision easy. But he could stand-down if he felt he was screwed and doesn't have a shot. Ben Williams is next on Australia's depth chart, I think, and he's got a lot of big matches in AFC. He could be the logical choice. Abduallah Al-Hilali of Oman is the only other age-eligible referee from Asia who has been a World Cup candidate, but he was dropped back in late 2008. Predictions (4): Irmatov, Nishimura, Al-Ghamdi, Williams UEFA So much could happen in UEFA. The only obvious things in my eyes are that Kassai, Benquerenca and Undiano Mallenco all return. They still have a lot to prove and plenty of time to do it, so they'll be around. Then the question marks start. Does Busacca carry-on? The only thing he has left to go for are the EURO12 and WC14 finals. Does he do it? My gut says 'yes' and that he wants a big international final to crown his career. Hansson? I don't think we'll see him again. FIFA likes him, but he seems out of favor with UEFA. It would be a long road back for him. Lannoy is done in my opinion. There are other French referees in the pipeline behind him. Stark? Well, he wants a UCL final and will likely get one. But is he what UEFA and FIFA want going forward? I think Brych will displace him. And then there's Webb. He could easily return, if he wants to go to EURO12 and then try his luck again at a WC (if he gets the Final here, I imagine he'll retire). But I've heard stuff before about how he wanted to return full-time to police work, so perhaps he'll give up tournaments after this. Who is waiting in the wings? Skomina (SVN), Thomson (SCO), Bebek (CRO), and Einwaller (AUT) are the young referees that were on the candidates list and cut. I think some will all be at EURO12 and the ones that shine will be in Brazil. Rizzoli from Italy is a no-brainer, as is Felix Brych from Germany if Stark stands down. Who else? Martin Atkinson if Webb stands down. Bjorn Kuipers from Netherlands will certainly be in the running. And I think Jonas Eriksson replaces Hansson in Sweden. The referees that have outside shots based on where they are right now, where they are from, and the opportunities they will have... Chapron (FRA), Kelly, (IRL), Yefet (ISR), Tudor (ROU), and Cakir (TUR). Predictions (12): Kassai, Benquerenca, Undiano Mallenco, Busacca, Webb, Skomina, Rizzoli, Brych, Kuipers, Eriksson, Kelly, Cakir. CONCACAF Rodriguez returns. Aguilar has an inside-track if he has no high-profile blunders. Then what? A lot depends on what the United States decides to do. If we have only one candidate, which seems likely, do we go back to Marrufo? Or do Salazar or Vaughn get the nod? An American has a shot--but at the moment, not a good one. Paul Ward hopefully is a candidate from Canada. I'd like to see him get a real chance. Roberto Moreno of Panama and Enrico Winjgaarde of Suriname will possibly be candidates again. Doubt Winjgaarde has a chance but Moreno might. And Mexico could have a second candidate, but I don't know who it would be. Predictions (4): Rodriguez, Aguilar, Marrufo, Moreno CONMEBOL I can't believe Ruiz is eligible for 2014. Should we pencil him in as a favorite for the Final, now? Pozo will return and Vazquez will be promoted, I'd wager. It's a mess after that. Argentina and Brazil will have referees there, but who? Argentina's #2 is Pezzota, who is to retire before 2014. Fagundes is Brazil's #2, but he also has to retire. There is a vacuum at the top for both countries. Amarilla from Paraguay is age-eligible and would have gone to this tournament if not for injury. Got to think he'll be there. There's no one else from South America who has even done a Copa America match and is age-eligible. EDIT: predicted Brazilian and Argentinian based on info below Predictions (6): Ruiz, Pozo, Vazquez, Torres, De Oliviera, Laverni OFC Sorry, but I just don't believe OFC will send two referees again. And Hester not getting a second match has got to be some sort of signal. I'll say they get one referee, and pick O'Leary. Predictions (1): O'Leary So my preliminary list of 30 referees for 2014 is... Damon (RSA) Benouza (ALG) Diatta (SEN) Al-Ghamdi (KSA) Irmatov (UZB) Nishimura (JPN) Williams (AUS) Kassai (HUN) Benquerenca (POR) Undiano Mallenco (ESP) Busacca (SUI) Webb (ENG) Skomina (SVN) Rizzoli (ITA) Brych (GER) Kuipers (NED) Eriksson (SWE) Kelly (IRL) Cakir (TUR) Rodriguez (MEX) Marrufo (USA) Aguilar (SLV) Moreno (PAN) Ruiz (COL) Pozo (CHI) Vazquez (URU) Amarilla (PAR) De Oliviera (BRA) Laverni (ARG) O'Leary (NZL) If I have 60% of that right in 3.5 years, I'll be happy!