Members of soccer governing body FIFA are set to vote for their new president at their congress in Zurich, amid a huge corruption scandal.
Incumbent President Sepp Blatter is seeking a fifth term. His only challenger is Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan.
The vote of FIFA’s 209 members comes two days after seven top officials were held in Zurich in a US fraud inquiry that indicted 14 people.
Sepp Blatter, 79, has faced calls to quit but says he is not responsible for the scandal and is favorite to win.
Both Sepp Blatter and Prince Ali bin- al-Hussein, 39, will have 15 minutes to address the delegates.
Each of the 209 member associations can then vote.
In the first round, a candidate must get two-thirds of the votes to win outright, or 140 votes.
If that is not achieved there will be a second round requiring a simple majority, even though there are only two candidates.
Sepp Blatter, who is in office for 17 years, remains the favorite, with strong support in Asia, the Americas and Africa.
At the congress opening on May 28, Sepp Blatter addressed the issue of corruption, insisting it fell to him to “fix things”.
He said: “We cannot allow the reputation of football and FIFA to be dragged through the mud and it has to stop here and now.”
However, Sepp Blatter distanced himself from the scandal, saying: “Many people hold me ultimately responsible for the… global football community… I cannot monitor everyone all of the time. If people want to do wrong they will also try to hide it.”
He said the “actions of individuals” had brought “shame and humiliation on football”.
Prince Ali bin al-Hussein has the support of most of Europe.
Responding to the scandal, Prince Ali said that FIFA needed leadership that “accepts responsibility for its actions and does not pass blame… and restores confidence in the hundreds of millions of football fans around the world”.
He said: “I am a straightforward person with straightforward ideas and ethics – a person who loves our sport.”
The head of European football’s governing body, UEFA, Michel Platini, was one of those calling for Sepp Blatter to quit.
At an emergency meeting with other FIFA confederation heads and Sepp Blatter on May 28, Michel Platini said he had asked the president “as a friend” to resign, saying: “I have had enough – enough is enough, too much is too much.”
Sepp Blatter refused, and the other confederations agreed with him that Friday’s vote should go ahead.
Two criminal investigations were announced on May 27.
The US investigation accuses those indicted of bribery, racketeering and money-laundering involving tens of millions of dollars over 24 years since 1991.
It includes allegations of bribes to influence the outcome of bids to stage football tournaments such as the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and the 2016 Copa America in the US.
Two FIFA vice presidents were among those arrested in Zurich.
One of them, Jeffrey Webb, was on May 28 “provisionally dismissed” as head of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF).
Swiss prosecutors have launched a separate investigation into the bidding process for the World Cup tournaments in 2018 in Russia and 2022 in Qatar.
Meanwhile, many of FIFA’s major sponsors have expressed concern over the investigations.
Coca-Cola, Visa, Adidas, McDonald’s, Hyundai Motor and Budweiser are pressing FIFA to take immediate action to restore its reputation.
FIFA will open its annual congress despite warnings from sponsors that they may review ties over the arrest of seven top officials on corruption charges.
FIFA’s key sponsors have issued statements putting increasing pressure on the soccer governing body over the mounting corruption allegations.
Visa warned that it will reassess its sponsorship unless FIFA makes changes.
Coca-Cola said: “The lengthy controversy has tarnished the mission and ideals of the FIFA World Cup.”
Adidas, McDonald’s and Hyundai Motor also expressed concern and said they were monitoring the situation closely.
The European football body UEFA will decide whether to boycott May 29 vote for the next FIFA president.
Incumbent President Sepp Blatter has yet to appear in public since the arrests.
Sepp Blatter, who is hoping to secure a fifth term at FIFA’s congress in Zurich, was not named in the corruption investigations.
FIFA provisionally banned from football-related activity 11 of the 14 people charged by the US authorities on Wednesday.
They are accused of racketeering, fraud and money laundering, including charges of receiving bribes to influence the outcome of bids to stage football tournaments, such as the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and the 2016 Copa America in the US. South African’s main football body has denied the claim.
Sepp Blatter said on May 27: “Such misconduct has no place in football and we will ensure that those who engage in it are put out of the game.”
Swiss prosecutors plan to interview ten FIFA executive committee members as part of a separate investigation into the bidding process for the World Cup tournaments in 2018 in Russia and 2022 in Qatar.
UEFA reacted to the latest events by saying they were “a disaster for FIFA and tarnish the image of football as a whole”.
The European body said Friday’s congress risked becoming a “farce” and that the vote should be postponed.
Those indicted in the US case are accused of accepting bribes and kickbacks estimated at more than $150 million over a 24-year period beginning in 1991.
Spelling out details of the US case, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said some FIFA executives had “used their positions to solicit bribes. They did this over and over, year after year, tournament after tournament”.
The seven arrested in Zurich were vice-presidents Jeffrey Webb and Eugenio Figueredo; Eduardo Li, Julio Rocha, Costas Takkas, Rafael Esquivel and Jose Maria Marin. They face extradition requests from the US.
Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein of Jordan will challenge incumbent Sepp Blatter for FIFA presidency.
The 39-year-old FIFA vice-president will stand as a candidate at the presidential election on May 29, where Sepp Blatter, 78, will seek a fifth term of office.
Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein said: “It is time to shift the focus away from administrative controversy and back to sport.
“The headlines should be about football, not about FIFA.”
Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein became president of Jordanian football in 1999 before being elected as the Asian Football Confederation’s FIFA vice-president in 2011. He has successfully championed the lifting of FIFA’s ban on the hijab in women’s football and was also one of a number of officials who called for the publication of Michael Garcia’s report into allegations of corruption surrounding the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids.
Prince Ali said he had been encouraged to stand by colleagues.
UEFA president Michel Platini is said to be “pleased” that Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein has decided to enter the race and will attempt to get the Jordanian as many votes as possible in Europe.