FIFA’s mission is to bring soccer to the world, especially those regions flush with fossil fuel wealth and conveniently lax ethical standards. Mired by multiple scandals, FIFA delegates voted to bring the game’s talents to Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022. The fishy choices resonate with the mantra that will be Sepp Blatter’s enduring legacy, “Straight Cash, Homie.”
Why did the US bid fail? The process is a corrupt political system with no accountability. Cash exchanges are made. Distinguished politicians and future kings are forced to kowtow before fat, despicable FIFA bureaucrats. Regardless of the result the whole thing is shameful and disgusting. England and the United States had the best stadiums, the most stable infrastructure and would have been the most profitable. Both earned a perfect 100 percent rating from a consulting firm. They lost out to Russia (86 percent) and Qatar (70 percent). Both countries were the most practical choices, but that may not have been a compelling selling point.
There was some concern about the U.S. Government’s involvement. The official response was supportive but lukewarm. The government was reluctant to give the guarantees other nations provided.
The United States is unpopular politically. Soccer-wise the U.S. is a backwater with little clout internationally. Public enthusiasm for the bid disappointed. The U.S. bid needed to do an extraordinary marketing job, but only did an adequate job. Henry Kissinger’s sex appeal can only take you so far.
What does this mean for U.S. Soccer? Not as much will be claimed. The 1994 World Cup had a tremendous impact, in the pre-Internet era. International soccer wasn’t accessible. Times have changed. The U.S. has a domestic league. ESPN is showing English Premier League. Anyone with cable can get three fully-devoted soccer networks. A World Cup here would be exciting, but, unfortunately for MLS, there isn’t the virgin audience waiting to be enthralled. Those who are interested can find the game.
When can we get a World Cup? [Edit: Forgot Qatar was in the Asian Federation (brain fart). Assuming the rules don’t change, which is never a given with FIFA. 2026 is a definite possibility for the United States. Qatar’s selection knocks fellow Asian federation member China out of the running until at least 2034. Europe and Asia would be out of the 2026 bidding. It would come down to North America, South America and Africa with Brazil out of the running. It’s hard to predict the economies of countries in eight years, but the U.S. would be the paper favorite, but viable opposition could include Canada, Egypt, Mexico, Argentina. Then guessing the bid would go back to Europe for the Centennial in 2030 and China in 2034. Speculation, but if China had declared their intention to bid for 2026, it’s a strong possibility the U.S. and not Qatar would be hosting 2022.]
Russia in 2018: Vladimir Putin wasn’t there to strike fear into the delegates. It didn’t matter. Russia is a fairly solid choice. They have a rich soccer history. They have improved dramatically at club and national level over the past decade. It is a huge, unwieldy country, but the venues will be consolidated in the West. Yekaterinburg is the only host city East of the Urals. Sarah Palin will have to watch on television like everyone else. Russia is hosting an Olympics and has hosted major soccer events. This shouldn’t be a problem.
Qatar in 2o22: It’s a small country, but an exceedingly wealthy one. Yes, Landon, they do have a team. I’ll sidestep the xenophobia and the press freedom. Though, the slavery and human trafficking should be a concern. The heat is an issue. The average temperature that time of year is 106 degrees, meaning it could get as high as 130 on the field. However, Qatar will be constructing all new stadiums for the event, with sophisticated air conditioning systems. The government has also confirmed it will allow alcohol and, despite not recognizing Israel, would treat them as any other team if they qualified. The political situation in the Middle East will never be resolved without significant cultural exchange and dialogue. Hopefully, soccer can be a useful implement in that process.
[Photo via Getty]