FOX Soccer Exclusive
FIFA can't go wrong with U.S. bid
The legacy of the 1994 World Cup stands as the best evidence in favor of the United States hosting the 2022 World Cup, but it could also be the biggest strike against the nation.
There is no debating that the 1994 World Cup was the best attended in the history of the tournament, and little arguing the fact that it was one of the most successful ever, but one question FIFA voters will be asking themselves is whether 28 years is long enough to make a country wait to host a second time.
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When you consider that Australia has never hosted a World Cup, much less Qatar, you can see how voters may be leaning towards one of them over the United States. But on the basis of the bids themselves, it’s tough to argue against the USA bid.
Want stadiums? The United States has brand new stadiums, bigger and more modern than those of the other nations competing for the 2022 World Cup. The USA bid includes massive and modern stadiums already built and ready to go, rather than sketches or models of stadiums that need to be constructed.
Want assurances of ticket sales? The 1994 World Cup remains the best attended tournament in history, an impressive title to hold considering the two World Cups in Europe since.
Want hotel rooms? The USA bid boasts more rooms ready to go right now than the other bids have rooms projected for 12 years from now. The Americans blow away Qatar and have clear edges against the other two competitors.
Want a reliable and reasonably-priced travel set-up? The USA bid wins there as well, with travel to United States a more manageable proposition than either to South Korea, Japan or Australia.
A look at the FIFA bid report on the United States’ bid and you realize that there just isn’t much FIFA can point to that’s wrong with the bid. There are some minor questions about training facilities and securing a better price for the five-star hotel proposed to be the FIFA headquarters, as well as issues with governmental assurances that the U.S. government simply couldn’t commit to because of constitutional laws.
Truth be told, the USA bid’s stiffest competition all resided in the 2018 World Cup bid race, but with Russia, Spain and England all battling against each other, the American bid suddenly looks that much stronger when compared to the much weaker field vying for 2022.
So if the merits of the bids clearly give the United States the edge, what else is there?
In fairness to Australia, it has a fundamentally sound bid and has never hosted a World Cup. With a budding league, and being in an area of the world that hasn’t had a World Cup, you can understand the appeal for the Aussie bid.
The reality is the Australian bid is the only other bid that makes sense as a legitimate rival to the USA bid for 2022. Qatar? FIFA’s own study of Qatar’s bid was rife with serious questions about the validity of the bid and the ability of the Arab nation to deliver what it is promising. Air-conditioned stadiums, comfortable accommodations and a seriously revamped travel set-up sounds like a lot to get done between now and 2022.
Still, Qatar is a threat because of the variables FIFA can’t (or chooses not to) control. If Qatar and Spain are working together to garner votes, as has been accused, then Qatar could pull the upset despite the USA bid being vastly superior. There is also the idea that FIFA President Sepp Blatter wants to establish a legacy, and giving an Arab nation a World Cup, and presumably helping Arab-Western relations could give Blatter the worldwide respect he seeks.
If it all still sounds like too much of a stretch to justify the acceptance of a weak bid, it’s because that’s exactly what it is.
And the South Korea and Japan bids? There was a belief that the promise of the World Cup potentially helping relations between South Korea and North Korea would sway voters to overlook the fact that South Korea just co-hosted a World Cup ten years ago. That’s a tougher sell now considering the growing tensions between the nations. As for Japan? It looks every bit like a long-shot bid with little chance of winning.
So why the United States again, just 28 years after its 1994 World Cup?
The USA bid makes sense because no country embodies the global community like the United States. No other country can boast large enclaves of immigrants from virtually every team participating in the tournament like the United States can. No other bid can promise packed stadiums for every single game like the USA can. No other bidding nation is as ready to put on a record-setting event as the United States is.
When you stack up the 2022 bids, the USA bid is the best, but we won’t know until Thursday whether being the best bid is enough to give the United States the nod.
Ives Galarcep is senior writer for FoxSoccer.com covering the U.S. national team and Major League Soccer.