New Delhi: India is fast becoming a global destination for sport. After cricket and hockey, it is now soccer's turn if FIFA carries the vote for India to host the Under-17 World Cup in 2017.

The world body has asked the All India Football Federation (AIFF) to bid next month for the Under-17 World Cup. The FIFA executive committee will decide on the hosts in March.

First the cricket world bowed to India's money power, then the international hockey federation came up with its road map to make India its major hub.

As for soccer, it is the Indian corporates that started getting big names of world soccer like Lionel Messi, Angel Di Maria and soon Bayern Munich, on its third visit to India, followed with all its big guns like Thomas Muller, Philipp Lahm, Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery. In between, the Indian owners Venky's brought their English Premier League side Blackburn Rovers to play in Pune.

So, it does not come as a surprise if FIFA wants India to host one of its major tournaments. The first hint came last year when Thierry Regenass, the director of membership and development association of FIFA, said India would bid to host the 24-team tournament either in 2017 or in 2019.

AIFF secretary Kushal Das said on Monday that the federation is preparing to bid for the tournament in 2017. As a host India can directly qualify for what would be its maiden U-17 World Cup.

"We are preparing to submit a professionally worked out bid document. If India can convince the FIFA executive members, it will be the biggest tournament the sub-continent will be holding. It will be a big boost for the game in the country and India could be playing in the tournament as hosts," said Das.

The AIFF will also seek help from sports minister Ajay Maken to help with infrastructure since FIFA bears the cost of the tournament.

Unilke the World Cup, which needs minimum 10 venues, the U-17 World Cup requires only four venues. The 24-nation meet could be hosted by any four venues among Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Goa, Bangalore and Chennai.

FIFA development officer Shaji Prabhakaran said that the tournament could change the landscape of Indian football.

"The tournament could be the best way to take the game forward in India. We have witnessed a huge popularity in the game and hosting the U-17 World Cup would help AIFF promote the game in a big way. It will be a win-win situation for India," he said.

Prabhakaran said AIFF needs good infrastructure and government support to conduct a successful U-17 World cup.

"The U-17 World Cup is one of the showpiece events of FIFA to promote budding talent. It is the best stage for some of the young footballers to showcase their talent," said Prabhakaran.

The inaugural edition of the tournament was held 1985 and is held every two years. Nigeria and Brazil are the most successful teams having won thrice while Ghana and Mexico have triumphed twice each.

The next edition slated for 2013 will be held in the United Arab Emirates ( UAE) while Chile will host the U-17 World Cup in 2015.

(Agencies)