The sport of soccer has come a long way in the United States over the last decade and many thought it would take another huge step in the right direction today with the announcement of the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cup host nations.
In the running for the 2022 Cup, the USA had obstacles of Qatar, Korea Republic, Japan, and Australia to overcome in order to be elected the host nation. Unfortunately for the USA, the smallest nation proved to be the biggest winner in this morning’s draw.
Qatar, a Middle-Eastern desert nation with a population of just 1.7 million, was awarded the opportunity to host the World Cup in 2022, leaving the American bid team shocked.
Should the USA be surprised? Disappointed? Outraged?
I would say so. After all, the 1994 World Cup on American soil was wildly successful and to this day has generated more revenue than any other Cup. Some may say, “that was then, this is now,” but there is no reason to believe the incredible American sports culture wouldn’t shatter the previous mark set in ’94.
Not after the sport’s growth in America. Not after the US Men’s National Team’s momentous performances at the 2009 Confederation’s Cup and the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
It just doesn’t make sense – and you saw that sentiment on the faces of the American bid committee that included former President Bill Clinton, US Soccer President Sunil Gulati, US soccer star Landon Donovan, and Academy Award-winning actor Morgan Freeman.
Several things became clear after processing FIFA’s decision to award the tournament to Qatar…
-Less about FIFA doubting that the USA was a strong candidate, more about the prospect of bringing the tournament to a new nation and new region.
-Money trumps all (Qatar threw outrageous amounts of money towards their bid process. The country has lots of new money from oil industry, real estate development, etc)
-Extensive construction, climate risks, infrastructure issues, and country size is apparently no concern
So on one hand, the USA can hang their heads high and realize that it was less about them and more about Qatar. The problem with that notion is that Qatar wasn’t even a good candidate in the first place (outside of the fact that they’re from the Middle East, where a tournament has never been held).
A nation that is smaller than the state of Connecticut, Qatar has a lot of work to do. The extreme desert heat will force them to install state-of-the-art air conditioning systems at each stadium to prevent the players, coaches, and fans from overheating.
Uhhh…health risk, anyone? What if the systems backfire, then what?
Qatar also needs to construct nine World Cup-quality stadiums within the next 12 years – not to mention all of them need to feature those expensive, stadium-wide air conditioning systems I mentioned above.
Look, you could go on and on with reasons why Qatar shouldn’t host the 2022 Cup, but the real story here is the impact it could have on soccer in America.
At a time when fan interest and sport growth is at an all-time high, the USA didn’t exactly need a setback in the momentum department. A successful bid would have only continued the growth in popularity, especially when the 2010 Cup is still fresh in Americans’ minds. Now, the failed bid seems like yet another defeat, much like Chicago’s 2016 Olympic push.
Fans will get over it, though, and yes, no matter what the sport of soccer will continue to grow in America. The problem is the rate at which this growth takes place. The real benefactor of a successful bid would have been Major League Soccer, America’s main professional league that continues to develop in a manner that not many predicted.
The majority of MLS teams already have or are currently constructing their own soccer-specific stadiums by now, but the ones that don’t have a stadium just yet would have had their facility hopes fulfilled if the USA had been awarded the Cup over Qatar. The new stadiums would be built at the very least for World Cup training and many would probably host actual games.
Not only would the MLS likely see a wealth of new resources, the league would surely experience a spike in fan interest as another added perk. Whether or not the increase in interest would come before or after the Cup is unknown, but the overall exposure would be invaluable in the league’s constant struggle for American sports relevance.
The impact the 2022 bid could have had on American soccer is supremely underestimated. The amount of resources and man power it takes to put on a successful world event like the World Cup is unbelievable.
It’s America. Everyone knows that if we were the hosts, we would have made sure it would be the most spectacular World Cup to date. As Americans, we always have to be the best, right? It’s because of this principle that I believe Major League Soccer would have found itself with a tremendous amount of resources that would have potentially had the power to align them with the elite soccer leagues in the entire world.
The real treat in this whole process? We now know that, as a host nation, Qatar gets an automatic berth into the 2022 tournament, thereby taking away a spot from a national team much more deserving of the competition.
Tryouts for Qatar’s team start….NOW!