It's a Christmas miracle, an unexpected contribution to MFUSA from Keith Hickey, who presents his argument for why the United States should get another World Cup in 2022.
In 1994, FIFA, world football’s governing body, held the World Cup in a country with little history or interest in the sport, no professional soccer league, and in stadiums built for other sports. It became the most successful sporting event in the history of the world. Attendance and revenues for USA ‘94 exceeded all expectations, smashing records, setting a new standard, and leaving behind the seeds of an American soccer revolution.
In December 2010, FIFA will gather and select the hosts of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, and the United States is bidding for both. The 2018 competition is likely to be held in Europe, and England, despite internal issues, has emerged as the front-runner. This would clear the way for the US to host the 2022 edition, an event which could see the United States fulfill its potential as a soccer nation.
On paper, the American bid is a no-brainer. No other nation can boast the number of World Class stadiums as the US, thanks mostly to the NFL. No nation has as large a population with the same mix of sports savvy and disposable income. No other nation has a media hype machine as large or as effective as the American press. In terms of transportation infrastructure and accommodations, the United States is again at the very top.
On the reverse face of the World Cup coin are the intangibles. Unable to find any substantive holes in the American bid, the most often heard objection is, “But they just hosted it in ‘94! It’s unfair!” Which is true. But it’s not the shortest time between hosting duties (that would be Mexico, 16 years between 1970 and 1986, albeit after Colombia withdrew), and the process isn’t about fairness at this point (Which is handled by FIFA’s rotation policy). The United States simply boasts the strongest bid of any eligible nation. Sepp Blatter has also used the World Cup in recent years as a way to expand the game beyond the traditional European and South American power base, taking the World Cup to Korea, Japan, and South Africa. Conventional wisdom says that he’d love to take his dog and pony show on the road to Qatar, or Australia, or Indonesia, for the noble cause of proselytizing the sport, but if Sepp Blatter has noble intentions, then we needn’t worry about future World Cups, since the End of Days is clearly upon us. Sepp’s two aims are to solidify his base of power so he can keep getting elected, and to make crazy amounts of money. The first was strengthened by the presence of every possible FIFA tournament being held in Africa for the past couple of years. A US World Cup would also serve to reward and placate Jack Warner, Sepp’s right hand and CONCACAF President. The latter objective is also served best by holding the tournament in the US, for obvious reasons. Besides, does Blatter really want to schlep around Perth or Palopo, or endure summer in Qatar?
A final argument must also be made for the tournament’s legacy. When the ‘94 World Cup ended, it left behind Major League Soccer, a league that has grown and established itself admirably. By 2022, MLS could be ready to make the jump to the next level in the American sports hierarchy, and the World Cup would be the perfect catalyst to make that happen. Americans love events, and America loves the World Cup. Every tournament, soccer players grace the covers of newspapers and magazines, and everyone knows at least something about the game. And the ranks of soccer fans always swell with new recruits after the tournament has ended. The World Cup would put the sport over the top, and put MLS in the national spotlight in a way not seen since Pele played for the Cosmos. Soccer will have conquered the last frontier. The 2022 World Cup in the United States would make the World’s game truly global.
Keith Hickey is a passionate soccer fan from Philadelphia, whose life will be complete when the Union start play next year. You can find him on Twitter as @usarsnl.