(Reuters) - The long-awaited decision on the hosts for the African Cup of Nations finals in 2025 and 2027 will be made later this month, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) said on Thursday.
The hosts would be announced after a meeting of the CAF executive committee in Cairo on Sept. 27, a statement said.
The two decisions have been eagerly awaited for almost a year since CAF stripped Guinea last October of the right to host the 2025 finals and then announced it would also award the hosting of the 2007 finals at the same time.
Guinea lost the 2025 tournament after CAF found it was well behind in preparations for the 24-team tournament.
At the same time, CAF announced they were re-opening bidding and would make a choice in early 2023 but they have repeatedly put off a decision.
The deadline for declarations of interest was extended to April when CAF said they had received bids from Algeria, Morocco and Zambia, plus a co-hosting bid from Benin and Nigeria, for the 2025 finals and from Algeria, Botswana, Egypt and a joint candidacy from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda for 2027.
The long-standing political rivalry between neighbours Algeria and Morocco has made the process difficult for CAF, sources in the executive committee have told Reuters.
But with Morocco bidding for only one of the two tournaments, a compromise has been engineered with the door open for it to be awarded the 2025 finals and Algeria the 2027 event.
CAF have sent evaluation teams to all bidding countries, appointing an independent assessor to oversee the inspections although the decision on the hosts will be made by the CAF executive committee.
The hosting of the Cup of Nations has run through a chequered history in the last decade, starting with South Africa stepping in to replace war-torn Libya in 2013.
In 2014 Guinea was awarded the right to host the 2023 finals, along with Cameroon (2019) and Ivory Coast (2021).
But Cameroon was declared not ready for the 2019 finals, so Egypt stepped in. Cameroon then hosted the 2021 edition, delayed for a year by the COVID-19 pandemic. Ivory Coast was supposed to host the 2023 event in June but it was postponed for six months because of concerns over the rainy season in West Africa.