Sunday, December 5, 2010

World Cup 2022: The U.S. Falls Flat

Following the disappointment of the United States’ failed bid for the 2022 World Cup, I received an e-mail from U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati with the subject line “What We Achieved.” Although Sunil and I are tight, I assume a few other U.S. Soccer backers got the same note. With all due respect to the efforts of the U.S. bid committee — they certainly did all they could to bring the World Cup back to America — I have a hard time seeing any positives from the sordid process that awarded the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.

I wish I could believe the idealistic viewpoint of Gabriele Marcotti, who says FIFA is spreading the World Cup love around to grow the game throughout the world. That’s a noble thought, but one that’s a tough sell given the process. How does a bid that was judged to put the athlete’s health at serious risk win so handily over the foolproof American candidacy? How does a technically sound English bid garner only one vote besides the one cast by their own FIFA representative? And how can we trust 22 voters when two of their colleagues were eliminated from the process for allegedly taking bribes?

Had FIFA chosen either England or the United States and paired that host with an ambitious bid from Russia or Qatar, I could believe the promoting the global game theory. But surely money-hungry group FIFA must have had other reasons for passing up two jackpot hosts. Grant Wahl claims “that petrodollars talk,” and the pairing of two oil rich nations as hosts back that concept.

So how long must we wait for another World Cup in the U.S.? 2026 is a possibility, but European foes will be in the mix. 2030 is the 100th anniversary of the World Cup, and original hosts Uruguay are striving to put together a joint bid with Argentina in time for the celebration. Just as Atlanta plucked the Centennial Olympics away from Athens, in 1996 the Americans may have the stronger case here. So sit tight. Despite all we have to offer as a World Cup host, it’s going to be awhile.

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