May 14, 2010
By Michael LewisMbr>BigAppleSoccer.com Editor
REASONS FOR OPTIMISM
Gulati feels confident of the bid to host the 2018 or 2022 World Cup
Given the backing, scope and comprehensiveness of the U.S. World Cup bid, it should not be surprising that U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati is optimistic the country will get the nod to host either the 2018 or 2022 tournament.
|U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati: "If we didn't think we were going to win, we wouldn't enter."
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
On Friday, Gulati will lead a delegation that will formally present the bid to FIFA at the organization's headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland.
The hand-off will be a mere formality because the U.S. World Cup bid committee already had submitted the proper paperwork to FIFA.
"If we didn't think we were going to win, we wouldn't enter," Gulati said prior to the Mexico-Ecuador international friendly, the first sporting event at the New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. last week. "Now that doesn't mean we're going to play with nine men instead of 11. We're going to do everything we can to ensure victory. But we're confident. We're confident of the bid and we're confident in the process that FIFA will make a great decision."
That decision won't come until Dec. 2 when FIFA will have digested all nine candidates' bids. In a first, world soccer's governing body decided to hold the bidding and for two tournaments and announce the winners for both at once.
One World Cup will be awarded to a European country, the other to the rest of the world. FIFA hasn't designated which tournament Europe will host, although the international scuttlebutt says it will be 2018.
The U.S. will be the last country to hand to meet with FIFA officials, after Australia, England, Holland/Belgium, Japan, Korea Republic, Qatar and Russia have presented theirs.
The latest time the U.S. bid for a major international event, it failed miserably as Chicago was eliminated in the first ballot by the International Olympic Committee last year.
"I don't think we learned very much from Chicago," Gulati said. "It's a completely different process."
Gulati noted there are 24 people voting on the FIFA Executive Committee as opposed to 125 IOC delegates.
"All 24 of those people I've met along the way," he said. "Some of them I've known for 20-plus years."
However, voting blocks do matter. For example, Gulati said that CONCACAF, of which U.S. is a member, has four votes that will go to the Americans (Mexico threw its support behind the U.S. last week). In contrast, Asia has four votes, but has four countries bidding.
Gulati said that CONCACAF president Jack Warner has pledged his and the confederation's support.
"Mr. Warner told us unequivocally again today that CONCACAF will be supporting us whether it is '18 or '22. whatever we are bidding for "he said. "That's a good starting point because we have to worry about 21 instead of 24 or 10 more."
Since the U.S. was awarded the 1994 World Cup in 1988, the requirements "have changed enormously." In 1987, the U.S. submitted a loose-leaf binder, which Gulati called "a good bid."
"Back then you essentially had to have a plan to host the World Cup," he said. "Now, we have contracts for 175,000 hotel rooms, contracts with 18 cities with 18 stadiums with every conceivable agency in the U.S. government.
"So it's an extraordinarily different situation. It's also an extraordinary different situation because we've got a soccer country that's a little bit different now that 1987.
"If you look at what happened since we got the World Cup -- the birth of a league that . . . announced its 19th team, a women's league, soccer-specific stadiums, we've got this phenomenal structure and a stadium down the road that is perfect for the Red Bulls. The no. 1 ticket buyers in the world are in the United States. The No. 1 TV rights buyer in the world the United States. It's a different world. The requirements have changed dramatically and we've risen to the new heights where we needed to be successful."
The next key date for the United States will come in early September, when the FIFA technical committee will visit the states and for an venue inspection of all 18 stadiums.