When the United States dropped its bid for the 2018 World Cup, it was seen as a move to placate FIFA’s desire to have the World Cup held that year in soccer’s birthplace (literally, if England wins the bid). By doing so, it also allowed the U.S. to be seen as the prohibitive favorite to win the 2022 bid when the vote is held December 2, in part due to a weak pool that includes Australia, Japan, Qatar, and South Korea. However, FIFA’s bribery scandal may alter the playing field just enough that it could potentially endanger the U.S.’s front runner status.
To recap, two members of the FIFA executive committee were caught on tape by British journalists asking for outright bribes to support certain countries’ World Cup bids. As of right now, these are the only two who have been caught, but reports by the The Guardian have FIFA’s executive committee unsure of what this week’s vote on the selection process will look like. While the British press loves sensational journalism, I think it is safe to say that FIFA is a bit of a mess right now. There have been no public reports that FIFA will definitely postpone its December 2 vote to select the 2018 and 2022 sites, but the possibility exists if the bribery scandal reaches further than currently known. The final site vote could be delayed a few weeks, or just one site vote could be delayed while the other proceeds.
What does this mean for the U.S. bid? As I said, right now the U.S. bid is allegedly far and away the front runner for the World Cup in 2022. We have the money, infrastructure, and media attention to make another United States World Cup very lucrative for FIFA. But what if the vote is delayed due to this scandal? Would an extra few weeks seed doubts in the minds of the executive committee, especially if there are other guilty committee members? The 2018 World Cup has a good chance of also being a lucrative and guaranteed financial success, especially if it takes place in England or Spain/Portugal. Maybe this puts into the committee’s mind that the 2022 World Cup doesn’t need to be a slam-dunk site, and the U.S. can wait four more years. Or maybe there is some other unforeseen situation that could pop up in December that could make the committee pause about awarding the World Cup to the U.S.
I am not saying it is a likely scenario that the U.S. loses the 2022 bid, even if they delay the vote. But it’s like a soccer match, when the winning manager is constantly eying the clock even when ahead by a good margin. All managers know crazy things can happen towards the end and it’s is better to quit while ahead. So let’s hope FIFA votes on December 2 and this country can begin to gear up for the World Cup in 12 years.
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