It's official: soccer is corrupt.
Well, actually, what's official is that soccer is being charged with being corrupt, after the New York Times reported that Swiss authorities, working in conjunction with the FBI, made several arrests of high-ranking FIFA executives on Wednesday morning. An indictment charged them and several other soccer power brokers – 14 men in all – with racketeering, wire fraud, money laundering and conspiracy. FIFA president Sepp Blatter was not charged.
Podcast: Dan Wetzel on FIFA corruption
At a press conference on Wednesday morning, the Department of Justice said that the accused will be extradited to the United States and could serve as much as 20 years of jail time for the racketeering charge alone.
The men are alleged to have paid and accepted some $150 million in bribes to sell and gain the broadcasting and marketing rights to several international tournaments in the Americas – including the Copa America and Gold Cup – and the hosting rights to the 2010 World Cup. A concurrent Swiss investigation is looking into the fraught bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosting rights and raided FIFA headquarters.
So now what?
Now nothing, probably.
Sure, some men will be shamed publicly. Some might be in real trouble with the law. Maybe fines. Maybe probation. Maybe jail.
The men charged aren't bit players, exactly. They are the current and former presidents of CONCACAF, the governing body for North and Central America and the Caribbean. Two others were former CONMEBOL presidents, ruling South American soccer. Of the nine FIFA executives indicted, several had been or are FIFA Vice Presidents and Executive Committee members. Among the others charged are Aaron Davidson, the president of Traffic Sports and chairman of the second-tier North American Soccer League.
But they aren't FIFA President Sepp Blatter, either. The snake still has its head. So soccer's graft machine will slither on for a while yet. In fact, it may feel empowered, as it somehow always does after the latest corruption embarrassment.
Shortly after the sweep, FIFA put out a brazen press release. "FIFA welcomes actions that can help contribute to rooting out any wrongdoing in football," it said. Then it went on to point out that "Swiss authorities, acting on behalf of their U.S. counterparts, arrested the individuals for activities carried out in relation with CONCACAF and CONMEBOL business."
This, they seemed to say, wasn't a probe into FIFA. As for the charges into the World Cup bidding, those, as FIFA put it, were merely "the authorities taking the opportunity of the FIFA Congress to interview those FIFA Executive Committee members who are not Swiss residents who voted back in 2010 and are still in office."
In closing, FIFA wrote: "We are pleased to see that the investigation is being energetically pursued for the good of football and believe that it will help to reinforce measures that FIFA has already taken."
A FIFA spokesman said at a press conference that Blatter hadn't been charged with anything and that Friday's presidential election, in which he will seek a fifth term, will go ahead as planned. This isn't surprising. In 2010, when Blatter's only challenger was banned from soccer for life on the eve of the election – also on corruption charges – the proceedings went merrily ahead as well.
The spokesman also said once again that FIFA wouldn't be revisiting the 2018 and 2022 World Cup allocations.
And that's how all this will play out. A few of Blatter's cronies will be ostracized from the game, as they have so many times before, but the system will remain in place. Thanks to Blatter's patronage system, he will almost certainly be re-elected on Friday. Perhaps a few federations will change their minds, but the critical, heaving mass of countries dependent on his dependable cash won't be swayed.
Blatter, who has been quiet, will probably say something along the lines of "Crisis? What is a crisis?" As he has in the past. He'll get his votes to "continue his mission," thank everyone for their "confidence" and things will go back to the way they were. Corruptible men the world over will get rich off the world's game.
The indictment is huge. FIFA's craven ways are being held to account. But it's also nothing. Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, Blatter's reformist challenger who's calling for transparency and good governance, will be defeated by all the federations loyal to Blatter and his steady stream of cash. Other men will fill the void of those outed and ousted.
And in a few years, there will be yet more investigations. FIFA, while rocked on Wednesday, will carry on being the same old FIFA. There's too much money to be made, too easily, for too many, for anything to change.
That isn't cynicism. It's decades of precedent.
Leander Schaerlaeckens is a soccer columnist for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter @LeanderAlphabet.