Zurich (AFP) - FIFA will on Monday stop accepting candidates to replace Sepp Blatter as the scandal-tainted body's leader, with five contenders declared and more expected before the door shuts.
Tokyo Sexwale, a South African diamond mining tycoon and politician, became the latest to join the race for the February 26 election, despite the mounting corruption scandals that have hit football's world body.
He will challenge Michel Platini, the UEFA leader now suspended by FIFA, former FIFA vice president Prince Ali bin al Hussein, David Nakhid, a former Trinidad and Tobago captain, and Jerome Champagne, a former FIFA official.
Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim al Khalifa, president of the Asian Football Confederation, is believed to be considering a run. At least one other senior football official could also stand.
Candidates have until midnight Monday to register papers at FIFA headquarters.
The world body's electoral committee will then carry out integrity checks on all of the runners before confirming them for the vote to be held at a special FIFA congress in Zurich.
- Open race -
Platini had been the frontrunner in the race after Blatter announced in June that he would stand down.
But a Swiss criminal investigation into Blatter and a two million dollar payment made by FIFA to Platini in 2011 has thrown the race wide open again.
Blatter and Platini have been suspended for 90 days and the French football legend's candidacy will only be examined when the ban ends in early January.
Sexwale, 62, -- once jailed alongside Nelson Mandela in an apartheid prison and an ex-government minister -- has appeared as a strong late candidate.
But the welter of revelations of new corruption cases and the number of contenders now involved has made the race uncertain.
"You never know what will happen next with FIFA, you never know what will happen to the candidates," a top advisor to one of the runners told AFP.
"FIFA elections were certainties for decades and suddenly this one is totally unpredictable," the official added.
Pressure over the scandals has mounted so much that International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach this month called on FIFA to consider a "credible external candidate".
FIFPRO, the international players union, has also called for the "most stringent tests of integrity" to be carried out on all candidates. It called the world body a "toxic pit" of corruption.
World football's leadership has never been far from scandal. But allegations have mounted since the 2010 votes which awarded the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar.
FIFA's foundations were shaken in May when seven football officials were detained on US warrants in a luxury Zurich hotel two days before Blatter, 79, was re-elected to a fifth term.
Despite his win over Prince Ali in that election, Blatter announced four days later he would stand down.
The Swiss criminal inquiry has left him battling to save his reputation.
The US inquiry -- with 14 football officials and business executives accused over more than $150 million of bribes -- threatens more embarrassing revelations.
Germany has become the latest country to be tainted by scandal. German prosecutors said last week they have started a preliminary inquiry into allegations that bribes were paid to secure the 2006 World Cup.
Der Speigel magazine has said Germany had a 6.7 million euro slush fund to buy votes. Germany's football leadership has strongly denied the allegations.