It seems the goalposts have moved and not all bidders are invited to FIFA's 2018 party, writes Matthew Hall.
Football Federation Australia Chairman Frank Lowy says the furore over 2018 World Cup bids is all a "storm in a tea cup" [GETTY]
And so it begins.
Actually, behind-the-scenes horse-trading over the destination of the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups has been in play for some time now.
This week, however, Britain's Daily Telegraph stepped up a few gears with an extraordinary story.
According to the newspaper:
"FIFA president Sepp Blatter and senior executives have opened negotiations with the non-European candidates for 2018, hoping to persuade them to withdraw voluntarily from the race and focus on the 2022 tournament.
"Multiple sources have since confirmed to Telegraph Sport that FIFA has held informal discussions with the United States, Australian and Japanese bids. Officially all three are still chasing both tournaments, but there is growing consensus among the bids that they will agree to FIFA's request. 'This is absolutely where it will end up in the next couple of months' said one source."
This development, should it prove true, confirms comments made by Blatter late last month at a press conference in Madrid.
"There is a movement at the moment among the various candidates that in the end it would be a good solution... if the candidates for 2018 would only be those from Europe," Blatter said.
Football Federation Australia claimed at the time that Blatter's comments did not come as a surprise and that Australia was still bidding for 2018.
A media blitz by FFA Chairman Frank Lowy after Blatter's comments attempted to douse fires that had began burning at home.
"Nothing has changed, I think there was a storm in a teacup," Lowy said in an interview with SBS's The World Game TV program.
Lowy added: "[Blatter] didn't say what his position was, he simply said that there is a movement [in Europe] that wants to have the World Cup in 2018, and this is a fact. It's blatantly clear what they [European nations] want, but will they get it? It will depend on who votes for them.
"They can't exclude us, they can't exclude the United States, they can't exclude Japan, we have made a legitimate bid, you can't change the goal posts in the middle of the game."
The Telegraph report suggests the goal posts can be changed, that FIFA is quietly telling Australia as much, and FFA is aware of exactly what is going on.
The Australian governing body however is currently saying it is not commenting on the bid "at present" and has tightened up on providing information to the public about the bid's progress.
This despite $45 million of public money funding the bid.
Perhaps Australia really has been caught short.
Perhaps nothing has changed and 2018 is a tactical red herring in the real fight for 2022.
Perhaps it is just a "storm in a tea cup".
In which case, you might want some sugar with that.
:: For those that know about these things, follow me on Twitter here