(Soccer America debuts ongoing coverage of the 2018/2022 World Cup bid process with the return of its World Cup Watch e-newsletter. Let us know your thoughts on the possibilities of the World Cup returning to the United States.)
By Paul Kennedy, Editor in Chief
Long odds on U.S. World Cup
BY THE NUMBERS. The USA's chances of landing the 2018 or 2022 World Cup are not viewed favorably in all quarters. In a ranking of the 11 contenders, the BBC put the USA's odds at 20-1, tied for ... seventh with South Korea and Japan. Only Qatar and Indonesia had longer odds.
South Korea 20-1
From the BBC report: "The United States is still waiting for 'soccer' to truly capture the nation's imagination, despite staging the World Cup in 1994, when over 3.58 million people attended. And the impact of David Beckham's time in Major League Soccer with LA Galaxy should not be underestimated, even if he does cut his time there short to stay with AC Milan, in terms of boosting the profile of the sport."
Underestimated? Fifty years from now, Beckham's stay at the Galaxy will be a footnote in the history of American soccer, hardly comparable with the impact of Pele's arrival at the Cosmos in 1975 and the 1994 World Cup (and 2018 or 2022 World Cup?).
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
"My job is to convince FIFA that 2018 should be in Europe because we have to come back to Europe every third time. If FIFA decides that it is in Europe, it is not a problem, because then everyone will vote for a European bid but we have to know the rules of FIFA first. If there is no European decision, perhaps we can find another decision or tactic with the UEFA executive committee. If we get that, then the four will fight for it.''
-- UEFA president Michel Platini, speaking on a visit to London, with his preference for which World Cup -- 2018 or 2022 -- should go to Europe. He said the four bidders -- England, Russia, Netherlands/Belgium and Spain/Portugal -- might compete in a preliminary contest to establish a single European candidate to go into the December 2010 vote. (AP)
"It now appears to me that there is considerable support for the World Cup being in Europe in 2018 but the one thing I have learned is to not take any matters regarding FIFA for granted. The problem with England is always the scrutiny. English football finds it very difficult to do anything away from the glare of publicity. England has tended to be quite upfront about who it is supporting in elections. England has tended to be open about its objectives. But I am glad to say that, these days, scrutiny of how the bids are conducted will be greater. I applaud transparency. Can you make agreements within football that can be kept? I hope so."
-- David Davies, the former executive director of the English Football Association who worked on England's failed bid to host the 2006 World Cup, on England's position as a favorite to claim one of the two World Cups up for bid. (Sydney Morning-Herald)
'Give us at least two weeks' notice'
The 2014 POSSIBILITIES? Slim and not, according to U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati, who chairs the World Cup bid committee.
Gulati was in Columbus for the USA-Mexico game and gave his first press conference since U.S. Soccer announced its intentions to bid for the 2018/2022 World Cups. Despite concerns about Brazil's ability to host the World Cup, Gulati said he expected Brazil to host in 2014: "We weren't ready to put on the first game of the World Cup in 1994 until about 30 seconds before kickoff. South Africa is not going to be ready until 30 seconds before kickoff. And none of these World Cups is perfect. We had some issues, France had some issues, Korea and Japan had some issues."
He says FIFA knows the USA's hosting capabilities. "We've joked with them," Gulati said, "'Listen, make sure if you need us for any events, give us at least two weeks' notice.'"
'Architectural wonder' with $1.1 billion price tag
STADIUM WATCH. The USA has an abundance of riches on the stadium front for its 2018/2022 bid, and as Gulati has been quick to point out, that doesn't include stadiums not yet finished or stadiums not yet conceived.
Case in point: the Dallas Cowboys new stadium, which will seat approximately 80,000 but can be expandable to up to 100,000 for major events. There's room for another 20,000 fans to watch on giant screens at plazas surrounding the stadium being built in Arlington.
The stadium features a retractable roof -- which could be the secret weapon in a U.S. bid. (One of the knocks on the 1994 World Cup was the hot and humid conditions in which games were played. Retractable roofs could allow games to be played midday in air conditioning -- prime time for the European market.)
At a cost of $1.1 billion, Paul Turner, the Cowboys' Director of Event Operations, calls the stadium an "architectural wonder."
Gulati's take on the stadium: "It's a huge stadium, it's a phenomenal stadium and it was built with soccer in mind, so the field size and the capacity are perfect for the World Cup. It's something that we would certainly be very interested in."
Asian power struggle
POLITICS FIX. If one of the two World Cups goes to Europe and Concacaf throws its support to the USA over Mexico, that means the U.S. bidders' only competition for the World Cup will come from Asia. A nasty political fight is brewing that could impact the 2018/2022 race from an Asian perspective.
Asian Football Confederation president Mohamed Bin Hammam (Qatar) finds himself threatened by fellow FIFA executive committee member Chung Mong-Joon (South Korea), who is seeking to remove Bin Hammam as AFC president.
Bin Hammam is seeking to stay on the executive committee by amending the AFC constitution to require the AFC representative as vice president on the FIFA executive committee to be the AFC president.
"Both the [constitutional] changes are designed to keep him [Bin Hammam] in power," Peter Velappan, AFC secretary-general for 30 years, told the New Straits Times. "It is an attempt to consolidate his position as a dictator ... West Asia except Qatar opposes Bin Hammam. The Arabs reject him. China, South Korea and Malaysia are totally against the Qatari. Members are fed up with his behavior."
Bin Hammam's Qatar is not considered a serious candidate -- but Australia could emerge as the top Asian candidate. (Against vocal opposition, Bin Hammam supported Australia's admission to the AFC in 2006.)