[U.S. SOCCER] Speaking to U.S. media before Wednesday's Honduras-USA match, U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati said he expected all five U.S. qualifiers to be played at MLS venues. In light of recent reports about the extent to which Qatar lobbied to get the 2022 World Cup, he also talked about the changing World Cup bid process and admitted that U.S. Soccer had not yet gotten past the defeat to Qatar. As far as a centennial edition of the Copa America being held in the United States in 2016, Gulati said plans were on hold and did not sound optimistic about the event happening.
The March 26 qualifier against Costa Rica will be played at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colo., and future qualifiers have been mentioned at MLS venues in Kansas City, Salt Lake City and Columbus, as well as Seattle's 67,000-seat CenturyLink Field. But Gulati said the process of finalizing the venues was taken longer than anticipated.
"There have been a few twists," Gulati said. "It’s not only the MLS schedule; it’s a college graduation on a field that we would like to play at. It’s a concert that forced an MLS game to move, which had a domino effect. It’s things like that. We will play generally in venues where the U.S. team has been successful in World Cup qualifying before.”
The USA has played and won qualifiers in Kansas City, Salt Lake City and Columbus. It won a qualifier in Seattle -- 2-0 over Canada in 1976 in the Kingdome -- but has yet to play a qualifier at CenturyLink Field, which has artificial turf.
Gulati would not respond to the widely reported "Qatargate" story published by France Football. He did say changes in how the World Cup bidding process was done would be needed.
"Would we bid in the future? Sure," he said. "When in the future, I don’t know. And under what rules, I don’t know. The rules are going to have to be different. The rules need to be much stronger, much stricter about what it is OK and what is not OK."
He acknowledged the USA had advantage in terms of the tickets it could sell and the readiness of its huge stadiums, but he added it was at a disadvantage against rivals with strong government backing.
"It’s clear -- and this is a tough one for the U.S. and we’ve discussed this at length with the U.S. Olympic Committee -- the role of nation states has become even more critical, that it’s not about a bid committee only," he said. "That’s always been true up to a point with government guarantees. But we are never going to have a situation where the U.S. is going to be able to try to influence a World Cup or Olympic bidding decision that are a matter of our foreign policy or geopolitics. It’s just not that critical to the U.S. Hosting the World Cup or Olympics doesn’t change the face of the U.S. economy. … Can you imagine an American president ever saying, ‘OK, we will sign a new treaty with a country because they have a voter for something.’ It’s just not the way it works."
Gulati said U.S. Soccer knew what it was getting into when it bid for 2022.
“We always knew it was an election and not a computer-generated result," he added. "It wasn’t a test. It was an election. Yeah, sure, it is still a huge disappointment. We haven’t gotten past it.”
Gulati said the plans for a centennial edition of the Copa America put forth by Conmebol were a moot point because the event is not on the FIFA calendar for 2016. And he did not expect European clubs to take kindly to losing players for three summers in a row, what with Gold Cups also scheduled for 2015 and 2017.