(Soccer America provides ongoing coverage of the 2018/2022 World Cup bid process.)
By Paul Kennedy, Editor in Chief
An abundance of stadium options
U.S. STADIUMS. Concacaf's decision to play the 2009 Gold Cup in 13 different U.S. cities over 13 dates is an ambitious undertaking -- it's a record for a continental championship and one less than Spain 1982's World Cup record for a single host -- but it says a lot about the availability of U.S. stadiums for its World Cup 2018/2022 bid effort.
To be sure, you can throw out six of the venues as World Cup 2018/2022 options.
Two venues -- Crew Stadium and Home Depot Center -- are soccer-specific stadiums too small to meet FIFA's requirements for the 2018/2022 World Cups. The same goes for the new FIU Stadium, which had been proposed as a home for a Miami-Barcelona MLS team.
Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum is a baseball stadium. (The A's plans to build a stadium in nearby Fremont have been scrapped.)
A new Meadowlands Stadium is being built to replace Giants Stadium, while RFK Stadium (a World Cup 1994 venue, like Giants Stadium) is no longer the best big stadium option in the Washington area (that would be the Redskins' FedEx Field).
That still leaves seven Gold Cup stadiums as World Cup 2018/2022 candidates -- New Dallas Cowboys Stadium (Arlington, Texas), Soldier Field (Chicago), Gillette Stadium (Foxboro, Mass.), University of Phoenix Stadium (Glendale, Ariz.), Reliant Stadium (Houston), Lincoln Financial Field (Philadelphia) and Qwest Field (Seattle).
(Click here for more on the 2009 Gold Cup venues.)
The push begins ...
HOUSTON. Efforts are beginning to get organized to be prepared to submit supporting documentation that the U.S. bid committee will need to submit to FIFA.
Lone Star Sports & Entertainment, an event management and marketing company that is affiliated with the Houston Texans and organizes international soccer matches at Reliant Stadium, the Greater Houston Visitors & Convention Bureau, Greater Houston Partnership, Harris County-Houston Sports authority and Houston Dynamo met next week to get behind Houston 2018/2022.
"It's about organization," Jamey Rootes, president of the Houston Texans and former president of the Columbus Crew, told My Fox Houston. "It's about team. It's about Houston coming together and getting prepared to participate in the competition to hopefully host World Cup in 2018 or 2022. It's the largest sporting event on the planet and certainly would be very special for Houston to have that opportunity."
Houston wasn't a World Cup '94 venue, but it should be a serious candidate for 2018/2022 -- its roof will allow for games to be played -- and watched -- in comfort.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
"Certainly, if any company cracks a deal with top football clubs, it will not only put Qatar on the world map as a sporting hub, but also add more value to our World Cup bid."
-- Qatar Football Association general secretary Saud al-Mohannadi on getting a boost for its World Cup bid from Qatar Airways, which has offered sponsor deals to several big European clubs. Manchester United, Chelsea and Real Madrid are among the clubs that will be looking for new shirt deals after their existing contracts run out next year. (Gulf Times)
'The clock is ticking'
AUSTRALIA. For its population (21 million), no country matches Australia for the popularity of team sports. Australian rules football. Rugby union. Rugby league. Cricket. And even soccer -- the A-League, which averaged more than 12,000 fans a game in 2008-09, will expand to 12 teams in 2009-10.
Australia has been the most aggressive of the non-European World Cup 2018/22 bidders in trumpeting its bid, but it has only five legitimate venues:
Brisbane-Suncorp Stadium; capacity: 52,500.
Melbourne-Etihad Stadium (former Telstra Dome); capacity: 56,347.
Melbourne- Melbourne Cricket Ground; capacity: 100,000.
Sydney-ANZ Stadium; capacity: 52,500.
Sydney-Sydney Football Stadium; capacity: 45,500.
Australia will be need to come up with five more venues. Controversy has been brewing in Adelaide, where the South Australian National Football League (Australian rules football) hopes to substantially upgrade AAMI Stadium, but the Football Federation Australia chief executive Ben Buckley told the Adelaide Advertiser that "the clock is ticking" and he did not see how the proposed work on AAMI Stadium would be sufficient. The oval was built in 1971.
Old Trafford visit on tap
BLATTER WATCH. FIFA president Sepp Blatter is also scheduled to meet with English Football Association Chairman David Triesman when he travels to Manchester to present Manchester United with a FIFA world champions badge for its 2008 Club World Cup championship and watch Wednesday's second leg of the UEFA Champions League round-of-16 series between Manchester United and Inter Milan at Old Trafford.
England is the early favorite to claim one of the two World Cups up for bid, and Blatter's trip would be one of his first trips since the first bid deadline passed.
Among the topics for discussion would be a proposed British Olympic soccer team, which Blatter opposes, and Blatter's effort to gain support for his so-called "6+5" rule, which would restrict clubs to a maximum of five foreigners in their starting lineups. England's big clubs rely heavily on foreigners and don't want restrictions imposed on them from on high.
England boss wants to be neutral
POLITICS FIX. Triesman, a member of the ruling Labour party who sits in the House of Lords, advised the upper house that he wants to change his status to that of a non-aligned peer, meaning he'd be unaffiliated with any political party.
"This change underlines my determination that the bid for the FIFA World Cup should be understood to be wholly outside any party politics," Triesman said. "As chairman of the bid, I will remain non-aligned until the decision is taken by FIFA's Executive Committee. It is in the best interests of a successful campaign that I should do so."