A week after the US loss of the 2022 World Cup, much ink and internet type has been spilled on whether the U.S. deserved the bid or was robbed, whether we American soccer fans have a false sense of entitlement or a shady process overwhelmed everything, and even whether U.S. soccer is ok without the Cup or seriously set back. Now is the perfect time for Sunil Gulati to come forward and address the issue, and lay the groundwork for the future of U.S. soccer.
Why now? The federation needs to be dragged out of its grief cycle and begin to focus on the future. Gulati needs to reassert his leadership and, most importantly, show FIFA and the world that U.S. soccer is a mature organization dedicated to working toward the future together with FIFA. So if I were in the USSF press office, I would have my organization president hold a press conference, and at this press conference have him deliver the following speech:
Thank you everyone for assembling here today. I would like to discuss in a formal way the 2022 World Cup bidding process and the subsequent awarding of the World Cup to Qatar. I have spoken to many of you on the record in a variety of formats, but I felt it was important to not only make a formal statement before everyone, but to address the future of U.S. soccer.
First, I would like to congratulate Qatar on winning the World Cup bid. After viewing their presentation and their grand ideas for the event, I feel that a worthy location has been chosen. Their progressive and forward-thinking ideas for building state-of-the-art stadiums that can then be donated to less fortunate countries were excellent and the kind of innovation that sometimes we think only America is capable of doing. The nation, which will host the 2011 AFC Asian Cup, deserves to host the world in 2022.
In a larger sense, I would like to commend FIFA for having the foresight to place the World Cup in the Middle East. Civilization began on the bank of the Mesopotamia, and the fact that the region has never hosted a World Cup is unfortunate, a wrong that we will right in twelve years. I do not want to delve into politics, which has little place in soccer, but too often Western contribution to the region has been warfare and weaponry. This time, we will bring peace and unity, the kind I know the region will welcome.
I’d be remiss if I did not mention the rumors of corruption in the bid process and its impact on the Qatari selection. Having seen no evidence of collusion or foul play with the selection, I wholeheartedly reject any notion that the selection was compromised. To assume based on innuendo would be a disservice to our Qatari friends. FIFA took action on the delegates that were accused of wrong doing, and without concrete evidence of other wrong doing I refuse to give credence to any other rumors.
That said, the FIFA selection process for too long has been cloaked in unnecessary secrecy and confusion, the kind that allows these type of rumors to exist. I offer USSF and CONCACAF’s assistance to Mr. Blatter and the FIFA Executive Committee in reforming the selection process for two reasons. First, at the end of the bid process, we all want there to be no doubt that the World Cup was fairly awarded. Secondly, there is too much money wasted in the bid process. England spent £15 million on their bid, money the country could have used elsewhere, only to garner two votes. FIFA should be upfront as to the criteria and selection thought process to allow countries to spend their money wisely and economically in selling their country as a possible site.
Now, as for the future of U.S. soccer, we will place a bid for the 2026 World Cup, assuming FIFA rules make us eligible. Instead of our past emphasis on being “soccer ready” and how much money an American World Cup will make (and it will make money), our slogan will be “one world, one nation.” Our bid will emphasize the fact that Americans come from all over the globe and root for many different national teams, and our borders contain a microcosm of the world. What better way to celebrate the world’s game than by holding it in a place where the world is represented, and can easily visit. In fact, the U.S. is willing to make the 2026 World Cup more international by holding one match in the group stage in Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean each (3 total matches outside the US), to allow our neighbors to benefit from the World Cup while still leaving the logistics and cost to us.
Finally, I will address the U.S. men’s national team. There had been discussion that a U.S. World Cup in 2022 would allow the USSF to have an “end date” for the American soccer building project. This discussion is a valid one, and I am announcing here today that USSF still has 2022 as the end date for a new building project: The American World Cup Project. Our goal is to have the U.S. be a serious contender for the 2022 World Cup, even though it will not be held in America. Instead, we plan to make the Qatar World Cup ours in everything but location. We will build the USSF infrastructure as if we were hosting the event (which means new training grounds for many clubs) and make every decision with 2022 in mind. This does not mean we will not compete in 2014 and 2018, but we realize the fallacy of the old 2010 project and pledge to put everything into a competitive 2022 team (and beyond). Will it be easy? No, but the last year has taught us America can be a soccer power if we set our minds to it, and I pledge to do that today.
Thank you, and I will now take questions.