Fourteen potential World Cup qualifiers have expressed to FIFA their desire to be based in Sochi during Russia 2018 — despite only two bases being available in the Black Sea resort city, sources have told ESPN FC.
Sochi, which staged the 2014 Winter Olympics, has hosted four games during the Confederations Cup, including Thursday’s semifinal between Mexico and Germany at the Fisht Stadium.
World champions Germany have played three games in the city during the tournament, with coach Joachim Low admitting to being impressed by the facilities and climate in Sochi and Adler, the resort where the Fisht Stadium sits on the seafront.
The Germans are believed to be one of the countries to have requested a Sochi base next year, but currently, only the Swissotel Kamelia and Hyatt Regency Hotel have been shortlisted as official team bases.
FIFA are keen to avoid the situation faced during the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, in South Africa and Brazil respectively, when a large number of countries based themselves in and around Johannesburg and Rio de Janeiro.
Both FIFA and the 2018 Local Organising Committee are determined to ensure a geographical spread of team bases in order for Russia as a whole to embrace the tournament, encouraging regions and cities to adopt teams who stay in their area.
But with the warm climate in the south around Sochi more reliable than the unpredictable conditions in the north of the country, national associations have already begun the scramble to secure their favoured venue.
With the draw for the finals not due to take place until Dec. 1 in Moscow, FIFA expects most nations to delay a final decision on a base camp until their Russia 2018 fixtures have been mapped out.
But base camps are being awarded on a first-come, first-served basis and both Sochi bases are likely to be claimed before December, despite the prospect of a three-hour flight to Ekaterinburg or 2hr 45m trip to St Petersburg.
Other options close to Sochi include Gelendzhik and Anapa, also on the Black Sea, which have three bases listed in the FIFA training camp catalogue.
Moscow, which has 18 shortlisted base camps, has already been ruled out by several nations due to the traffic problems in the Russian capital.
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_