The legacy question

[MY VIEW] American soccer as we know it would not exist if FIFA had not awarded it the 1994 World Cup. No doubt. But it has perhaps done too well for its own good. What will the legacy be of a second World Cup in the United States? The legacy question is one of the few questions that has dogged the USA 2022 bid.

Without the 1994 World Cup, there would have been no Alan Rothenberg brought in to run it. And there would have been no Mark Abbott and no Ivan Gazidis recruited from Rothenberg's law firm to execute the launch of MLS. And there would have been no reason for players such as Carlos Valderrama and Marco Etcheverry to take Sunil Gulati up on his offer to return for MLS in 1996.

The 2022 World Cup is different in every possible way. FIFA told U.S. Soccer to bid and the 1994 World Cup would be its. Good thing the late Werner Fricker, the USSF president at the time, was a builder. He had good connections at his local bank in suburban Philadelphia and he was loaned the money to get the U.S. bid off the ground. The federation certainly didn't have the funds.

Ironic, then, that two years after the USA was awarded the World Cup Fricker would be ousted in a putsch that saw Rothenberg installed as the head of the World Cup effort. Rothenberg says the U.S. '94 bid was written on the back of an envelope. He wasn't around in 1988 when the USA was awarded the World Cup so he exaggerates but his point is valid.

The 2022 World Cup is another animal. Gulati, now president of U.S. Soccer and chairman of the USA 2022 Bid Committee, lamented FIFA wants "the World Cup in a box," volumes and volumes of legal documents and agreements, all signed 12 years out.

Thought of as a shoo-in to win the World Cup a year ago, the USA finds itself in a real battle. Will the USA suffer the same ignominious fate as the Chicago 2016 Olympics bid that was eliminated in the first round? No. But the great fear is that the USA will face an exit before the final round of voting on Thursday.

The USA 2022 bid has everything, offering more than a dozen stadiums that could be ready tomorrow and 5 million tickets for sale, basically 50 percent more than any other bidder. The U.S. ticket television market -- English and Spanish-language -- is now the most lucrative World Cup market for FIFA.

But what about the legacy of the 2022 World Cup? The L word was first raised by Chilean Harold Mayne-Nicholls, head of the FIFA inspection team, in September. The USA had all the physical assets, he said, but what about its legacy plan?

The USA came out with the World Cup of Life project. A percentage of every ticket sold at the 2022 World Cup will go to the campaign aimed at providing drinking water for millions in the developing world.

Certainly, it's a worthy campaign but a tad idealistic. Nothing like the Qatar bid that offers to bring the World Cup to the Arab world for the first time or South Korea's Global Football Development Fund, a 12-year, pre-2022 program that would distribute $777 million among FIFA’s confederations.

Or how does the water project stack up against contributing to peace on the Korean peninsula? The South Korea 2022 bid proposes playing games in North Korea, or at least that was the idea before North Korea started shelling Yeonpyeong Island last week.

As Gulati and Co., made their final pitches to the 22 members of the FIFA executive committee, their ability to answer the legacy question will go a long way toward determining whether the USA will be awarded the 2022 World Cup.

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