Tomorrow is one of the biggest sporting events of the summer. The 2006 Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest is less than 24 hours away, and it's truly being billed as an international match-up. Reigning champion - and world record holder for chowing 53.5 hot dogs in 12 minutes - Takeru "The Tsunami" Kobayashi of Japan returns to defend his five consectuive titles against American challenger Joey Chestnut. Chestnut, who finished third last year (second place was Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas) with 32 hot dogs eaten, recently set a new American record by eating 50 hot dogs in a competition that qualified him to compete tomorrow; naturally, that competition was held on the Brooklyn Bridge part of the New York, New York Hotel in Las Vegas.

Chestnut has been modest about his chances, saying he hopes just to come close to Kobayashi. So, who will win? We suspect Kobayashi will win again, as he's eaten over 44 hot dogs for five years running in gross NYC summer weather; Chestnut will place second, giving Kobabyahi a run for his money; and Thomas will come in third. However, the wild card factor is July 4th: You can never underestimate a man's patriotism and desire to bring the Mustard-Yellow belt back to the U.S. of A. Pinnacle Sports offered odds: Kobayashi 1/3 odds; Chestnut 3/1 odds; Thomas, 21/1 odds. Over-unders: Kobayashi, 50 hot dogs; Chestnut, 45; Thomas, 37 (Kobayashi's 2004 record will stand!).

Last year, Kobayashi could only stomach 49 hot dogs, so tomorrow's match-up should be fun - and . Read up on the competitors tomorrow by checking out the International Federdation of Competitive Eating's eater profiles. If you're planning on heading to see the event in person, get there well before 11AM; if you're going to be at home, ESPN will start coverage at 12PM. And to whet your appetite, here's our coverage of the Schnack Hot Dog Eating Contest in May.

Photograph by Tien Mao