When the final votes were tallied, the winner of the 2017 Ballon d'Or was, unsurprisingly. #Cristiano Ronaldo, who picked up 946 points as voted on by soccer journalists. This was the second year in a row that Ronaldo won the coveted award and his fifth win in the last 10 years. The runner-up was #Lionel Messi, with 670 votes, which was also not a shock. Over the last 10 years, Messi won the award in the five years that Ronaldo did not. As a matter of fact, either Ronaldo or Messi was the winner or runner-up in every year over the last 10 with the exception of 2010, when Ronaldo finished sixth.Looking forward to 2018, one wonders if anyone can challenge these two soccer juggernauts for the 2018 Ballon d'Or.

The favorites for the 2018 Ballon d'Or

When it comes to the 2018 Ballon d'Or, anyone voting against Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi in a pool would be betting on an underdog. This year, it was clear that one of those two men would win, as they both deserved the opportunity to take the award. The fact that the two men combined for 1,616 points in the voting show how dominant they are in the eyes of at least soccer journalists.

However, there is a good reason to think that the 2018 Ballon d'Or will go to someone else, other than the two best players in the game right now. The reason is that there is a World Cup in 2018 and that could swing some major votes.

The effect of the World Cup

When Cristiano Ronaldo won the Ballon d'Or award in 2014, it was a huge win that was shouldered by his performance in Portugal’s World Cup qualification and the Real’s Champions League/Copa del Rey double.

In 2010, Messi won but that was the year Ronaldo fell short. The reason was the performance of Andres Iniesta and Xavi thanks to Spain's World Cup performance.

In 2006, Fabio Cannavaro won the award thanks to his leading Italy to the World Cup title - only the third defender to win the award at the time. This means the World Cup can really influence voters.

Who does this open the 2018 Ballon d'Or field up to?

If you remove both Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi from the 2018 Ballon d'Or betting pool, who can step up and win the title thanks to the World Cup? Here are five names that can win the title next year if one of the favorites falters. Neymar (PSG) will represent Brazil in the World Cup. Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City) represents Belgium.

Antonio Griezmann (Atletico Madrid) represents France. Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich) represents Poland. Finally, Harry Kane (Tottenham) represents England. If you want to find someone other than Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi to win the 2018 Ballon d'Or, that is a good place to start. #Ballon Dor