Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Will The Game Be In Us?

By this time tomorrow we know which nations will host the 2018 and 2022 World Cup. With one last chance to impress a couple dozen FIFA voters, the United States bid team mixed passion, humility and undeniable strengths into a strong presentation. Now those FIFA's voters must decide if they agree with Morgan Freeman, Landon Donovan, Bill Clinton, and USSF President Sunil Gulati.

Earlier I speculated that FIFA can choose between hosts that will guarantee a financially successful World Cup (England and the United States) or those that represent growth opportunities for the game (Russia and Qatar). The U.S. bid committee successfully showed they are both. American arrogance never plays well on the international stage, so Gulati needed to strike a confident but humble tone. He presented the strengths of the American facilities, infrastructure and television audiences, while positioning the U.S. at the midpoint of a 50-year growth plan. I thought the balance was perfect.

While Gulati focused on the nuts and bolts, the rest of the team showcased the emotional side of the American bid and our unmatched ethnic diversity. Athletes rarely come off as relatable, but when Landon Donovan said attending the World Cup in 1994 had an impact on his life and development as a soccer player, I felt a personal connection. I doubt I would be blogging about soccer today if not for the thrilling experience of attending World Cup games at Giants Stadium 16 years ago.

Clinton's appearance as the political star was made more powerful because he was such a visible backer of the U.S. side in South Africa. Clinton wasn't just reading a script when he spoke of his love of the game; that passion was on display for all to see back in June. I doubt Morgan Freeman's slip-up with the script will cost the U.S. any votes, but if it does he should be sent back to Shawshank Prison immediately. Otherwise his eloquent narration set the tone for a well-paced presentation.

Tomorrow we'll know if it was all worth the effort. Either the way, the United States team should be proud of their performance.

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