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U.S. loses 2022 World Cup bid to Qatar

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Landon Donovan is just one of many disappointed Americans after the U.S. lost the World Cup.
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Jamie Trecker

Jamie Trecker is the Senior Editor for FOXSoccer.com. A working journalist for 25 years, he covers the Champions League, European soccer and the world game. Follow him on Twitter.

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The United States on Thursday lost its bid to host the 2022 World Cup to Qatar in a stunning rebuff to the country many had considered the front-runner to host the world’s grandest sporting event.

Qatar, which has never qualified for the competition, becomes the first Middle Eastern Arab nation to host the World Cup, and signals FIFA’s desire to engage the Muslim world. Qatar, with only 1.7 million inhabitants, will also become the smallest nation  to host a World Cup.

The choice also puts an emphatic capstone on the legacy of FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who has taken the Cup around the planet in an effort to broaden the game’s social and political legacy.

In addition, Russia was chosen to host the 2018 World Cup, giving a huge boost to the post-Soviet state as it looks to cement its place in modern Europe. Russia was the favorite to win the Cup after England’s bid was derailed by a series of missteps, including the removal of bid leader Lord Triesman earlier this year after he made unfounded allegations about two other bidding nations.

The World Cup award process was not a smooth one. The run-up to the vote was marred by a series of high-profile corruption scandals, one of which led to two voting members being suspended by FIFA last month, and repeated accusations of collusion among bidding nations. Thursday's vote might be seen by many cynics as a confirmation of those allegations. Qatar and Russia had both been repeatedly accused of improper actions.

American bid leaders had been circumspect about their chances in recent days, perhaps sensing FIFA’s voters were not lining up behind their bid. The decision might reflect the United States’ diminished standing in the world because an internal study conducted by FIFA showed the U.S. would produce the wealthiest and most successful tournament of all the campaigners.

It was the second high-profile sporting defeat in a 14-month span for the U.S.: Another supposed front-runner, Chicago, was eliminated in the first round of voting for the 2016 Olympic Games last October. That event went to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Qatar’s bid was one of the most audacious proposals submitted and steadily moved from being a dark horse to pre-vote favorite despite being classified as “high risk” by FIFA’s own inspectors. The country has proposed air conditioning every stadium, building a massive amount of World Cup-specific infrastructure, then making donations to poorer countries after the Cup concludes.

While there were serious hesitations about the country’s weather, where temperatures exceed 110 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer, FIFA’s voters were clearly willing to look past that, seeing instead the potential social impact of the Cup.

Despite its enormous wealth, Qatar is still a largely closed society, and its rulers are gambling that the Cup can do for it what 2002 did for South Korea. At that event, the Korean public was forced to interact with a world it had deep misgivings about, and the result was a rousing success.

POLL

  • Why was the U.S. World Cup bid lost?
    • 1994 was just too recent
    • FIFA is obviously anti-American
    • Americans just don't love soccer
    • FIFA is just spreading the wealth

FIFA also sees the tremendous growth potential in the Muslim world and recognized soccer must engage it. The sport is the most popular in the Arab world, but the grassroots development of the sport has lagged far behind. Thursday's announcement is sure to change that.

For the U.S., failure to win should mean some serious soul searching. U.S. Soccer had spent a great deal of political capital on the bid, and its leadership must now confront the reality that while American money is increasingly flowing into the world game, the organization’s clout in FIFA halls has not kept pace.

Furthermore, Thursday's vote signals a long, long wait for an American World Cup. China is already tabbed as the front-runner to host in 2026, and the tournament would be expected back in Europe for 2030. There is no timeline for those decisions.

For Blatter, however, Thursday might have completed what has proved to a remarkable career. Despite the very real troubles in his organization, the former general secretary-turned-FIFA president has also championed the women's game, delivered an African World Cup and now leaves with two more grand ventures that would have been inconceivable even 10 years ago.

Jamie Trecker is a senior writer for FoxSoccer.com covering international football.

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