Milton Keynes Dons may be the youngest team by far in the English football league, but they have certainly hit the world stage quickly.

The MK Dons were formerly known as Wimbledon (nicknamed the Dons) - whose "Crazy Gang" surprisingly beat Liverpool in the 1988 FA Cup Final - but due to their dire financial straits they had to move from the west London suburb famous for tennis to the town of Milton Keynes in Berkshire, becoming known as the Milton Keynes, or MK, Dons.

Now their 22,000 capacity stadium (which will be converted to a capacity of at least 45,000 should England win the bid to host the tournament), Stadium:mk, has been announced that it will be one of the venues of the 2018 World Cup, if England win the bid.

Several cities around England have bid to host World Cup matches. The winners also include two stadiums in Manchester (United's Old Trafford and City's City of Manchester Stadium) and three in London (Wembley, Arsenal's Emirates Stadium and either Tottenham Hotspur's proposed new stadium or the 2012 Olympic Stadium).

Birmingham's Villa Park, Liverpool's Anfield (or a new stadium), Sheffield's Hillsborough and Plymouth's Home Park will host 2018 World Cup matches if the bid is successful.

Germany (1974 and 2006), France (1938 and 1998 ) and Italy (1934 and 1990) have all hosted the World Cup twice, but England's only hosting of the tournament was in 1966.

As the world's richest footballing nation, England is one of just two or three European countries that could host a World Cup soon without having to build new stadia and infrastructure.

Milton Keynes named in 2018 World Cup list

Kevin Eason, Sports News Correspondent, and Ben Smith
The Times
December 16, 2009

The futuristic Stadium:mk will host matches in the 2018 World Cup if England's bid is successful.

Milton Keynes completed its journey from footballing obscurity to the world stage today when it was announced as one of 12 host cities for England's 2018 World Cup bid.

Only three of the 15 applicants – Hull, Leicester and Derby – missed out, while a hat-trick of cities that would usually be considered football wildernesses by most fans have made the breakthrough to join the World Cup elite, with Plymouth Argyle's proposed new £50 million Home Park stadium and Bristol included alongside Milton Keynes.

Pete Winkelman, chairman of MK Dons, who presented the city’s case, always believed his fledgling outfit could muscle its way into the elite of world football. "It doesn't surprise me - we've had complete political unity in the city and everyone from the police to the NHS have been backing the bid," he said.

Wimbledon surprisingly beat Liverpool in the 1988 FA Cup Final. But due to dire financial circumstances, they moved to Milton Keynes in 2004, changing their names to Milton Keynes Dons (above)

"That is what made our bid stand out. To be in amongst a host of fantastic footballing cities around the country is so exciting for us and we can't wait to support the whole bid. It will be great for the country if we can pull this off for 2018."

Stadium:mk has a capacity of only 22,000, but can easily be converted to the minimum 45,000 seats demanded by Fifa. It also has ample room for fan parks, is close to busy city shopping, is within an hour of cities from Oxford to Cambridge and London to Birmingham.

In spite of doubts, Liverpool also made it onto the list. With plans for a replacement for Everton’s Goodison Park ditched and Liverpool no nearer replacing the outdated Anfield, Lord Mawhinney, Football League chairman, who led the selection panel, said it was still unthinkable that Liverpool was not part of an England World Cup bid. He had assurances, he said, that even if a new stadium was not built, the present Anfield would be substantially upgraded to World Cup standard.

"It would have been very hard to envisage an impressive World Cup bid with host cities that did not include iconic Liverpool," Mawhinney said.

Steven Gerrard, the Liverpool captain, added: "Liverpool is such an historic footballing city I'm not surprised we've been chosen. I'm 100 per cent behind England's bid and I'd love to see World Cup games played here."

Both Newcastle and Sunderland are included to represent the North East, while Manchester will field its two famous stadiums – City’s City of Manchester stadium and United’s Old Trafford. Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough was chosen over Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane with Villa Park in Birmingham and Leeds United’s Elland Road also included.

"England's fortunate to have so many good stadia and I would like to congratulate all of the applicant host cities for the seven months of really hard work they have put in," Mawhinney added. "We have chosen cities which present the lowest possible risk to Fifa and it's Fifa who will make the final decision.

"There will also be a lot of disappointed football fans around the country I understand that - and if I was a fan of theirs I would be just as disappointed."

The selection team are also putting their faith in clubs breaking through the financial restraints of the recession to complete new venues.

However, it is still no clearer whether the new Olympic Stadium being built for the 2012 Games will be included. The bid team have entered both the stadium and Tottenham Hotspur’s proposals for a new White Hart Lane as possibilities but which one is chosen will not be known for as long as three years until the debate over the Olympic site is over and Tottenham have cleared the twin hurdles of planning permission and financing.

Each city had to fulfil a long list of criteria – from transport and accommodation to security and even the attractiveness of the city – to win through. They will also have to contribute to a £3 million pot to help finance the bid campaign and commit to £100 million of regeneration and legacy projects.

2018 Host cities

Birmingham – Villa Park
Bristol – New Ashton Vale Stadium
Leeds – Elland Road
Liverpool – Anfield or New Anfield
London – Wembley
London – Emirates Stadium
London – New White Hart Lane or Olympic Stadium
Manchester – City of Manchester Stadium
Manchester – Old Trafford
Milton Keynes – Stadium MK
Newcastle – St James' Park
Nottingham – New stadium
Plymouth – Home Park;
Sheffield – Hillsborough
Sunderland – Stadium of Light

Last edited by Blackleaf; Dec 16th, 2009 at 03:15 PM..