ZURICH, Switzerland -- FIFA hierarchy have voted to scrap the policy of rotating World Cup finals between the six continental confederations, following a meeting in Switzerland.
Vice-president Chung said the rotation would be dropped from 2018.
Executive committee vice-president Chung Mong-joon announced in Zurich on Monday that by a unanimous vote it had been decided to drop the rotation from 2018.
Chung explained that all associations would be free to apply to host future World Cup finals, providing they did not belong to confederations that had staged either of the two previous tournaments.
South Africa is set to host the 2010 event, and Brazil is expected to have its bid for 2014 confirmed on Tuesday.
FIFA has been under heavy pressure to open the 2018 bidding to allow nations outside North and Central America and the Caribbean to host the tournament.
The rotation system meant that after Colombia dropped out of the 2014 race, Brazil was left as the sole candidate -- a situation FIFA president Sepp Blatter wanted to avoid in the future.
Blatter said the executive committee rejected a proposal from CONCACAF to restrict the competition to the North America region for the 2018 tournament and then open it up.
"FIFA's decision does not change our own commitment to try to bring the World Cup back to the United States," U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati said. "I believe that a U.S. bid will be very competitive."
South Korea and Japan shared the 2002 World Cup and Germany was the host in 2006.
"If you go back to 2002, and look at the recent history of rotation ... it's been Asia, Europe, Africa and with 2014 going to South America," CONCACAF general secretary Chuck Blazer told The Associated Press.
"I thought in all logic and fairness the next cycle should be CONCACAF. Regrettably, that did not carry the day
Blatter indicated there is widespread interest in hosting the 2018 World Cup.
"Already we have a bunch of big, great candidates," he said.
Other nations interested in hosting the 2018 event include England, Russia, Australia, Spain, China, Mexico and a joint bid from the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.
"I am delighted that FIFA have opened the door for the World Cup to come back to England," British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Monday in a statement.
"By 2018, it will be 52 years since England hosted the World Cup. The nation which gave football to the world deserves to have the greatest tournament back on these shores."
England's FIFA vice-president Geoff Thompson said: "We welcome the decision made by the FIFA executive committee and will now consider our position."
The English FA will discuss the matter at Wednesday's board meeting.
Blatter said the FIFA executive committee would decide on the 2018 hosts in 2011 and that bids would have to be submitted at least two years in advance.
"I think they should start their bidding campaign tomorrow!" he quipped.
The FIFA supremo confirmed that Sebastian Coe, chairman of FIFA's ethics committee, would play a key role in the 2018 bidding process.
"We try to be fair and transparent and we have had a discussion on this matter with the chairman of our ethics committee and we have invited him and his committee to overlook the bid process," said Blatter.
"This will be not only looking at the FIFA executive committee -- you should also have a look at the bidders and he will do that."
If there are a large number of candidates for 2018 -- Blatter mentioned 10 or 11 countries -- then FIFA will adopt the Olympic policy of making a 'pre-selection' to reduce the bidders.
FIFA, meanwhile, have announced new rules to clamp down on third-party ownership of players following the Carlos Tevez controversy involving West Ham.
The new FIFA regulation states: "No club shall enter into a contract which enables any other party to that contract, or any third party to acquire the ability to influence in employment and transfer-related matters its independence, its policies or the performance of its teams.
"The FIFA disciplinary committee may impose disciplinary measures on clubs that do not observe the obligations set out in this article."
Tevez joined West Ham from Brazilian side Corinthians, who have since become embroiled in an investigation by Brazilian police.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter said: "Identification of ownership of this club and the transfer of money going from there to England is a matter which has already been dealt with partially.
"We have been presented with a new approach about how to try to solve this problem and it will be ratified to come into force at the end of the year." E-mail to a friend