April 27, 2009
By Charles CuttoneExecutive Editor
Who hosts the World Cup should be a no-brainer
Sometime within the next year or so, one or more large loose leaf binders, videos and power point presentations will make their way from an office in New York to Zurich Switzerland. A letter in support of what those materials contain has already been sent by President Barack Obama.
The decision that follows those documents should be a no-brainer.
The United States should host the World Cup in 2018 or 2022.
It truly should be a simple decision, and in saying that, I mean no disrespect to the other bidding nations.
But look at the facts. By 2018, it will have been a full 24 years since the United States hosted the World Cup. The 1994 edition, played in nine stadiums across the country, still stands as the most successful ever. Even though the field and number of games have since been expanded, World Cup 94 still holds the record for both total and average attendance.
The sport’s growth in this country in the ensuing years virtually assures that any future tournament would see at least as much success, maybe more.
Given the current economic climate it seems inconceivable that governments will allocate hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars to host the World Cup. And the U.S. is one of the few nations worldwide in which that will not be necessary
There are at least 70 stadiums in this country capable of hosting the World Cup. All of those far exceed the minimum requirement of 40,000 seats for early round games. We are talking National Football League stadiums and division 1 football stadiums seating 60,000 or more. There are a dozen more stadiums seating at least 80,000 that could host the final. And, even at the local level, “We’re not asking municipalities to spend millions, tens of millions or hundreds of millions of dollars,” said U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati.
While some of the country’s World Cup-ready venues are storied stadiums, many of them are relatively new or not yet opened, like Jerry Jones’s Texas Taj Mahal near Dallas and the new $1 billion Meadowlands Stadium the Giants and Jets are building.
Somewhere between nine and twelve stadiums could be the optimum for the World Cup, but Gulati thinks in a country the size of the United States, it could be more. It’s conceivable that early rounds could be contested in five groups of three stadiums each.
There certainly are enough options to make travelling between venues easy for teams and fans.
The last World Cup in Germany was held in 12 stadiums, many of them smaller venues like Fritz Walter Stadion in Kaiserslautern. In the United States, a small community like Tuscaloosa, Alabama could host a World Cup game and accommodate 80,000 fans. Communities like Ann Arbor, Michigan could accommodate 100,000 fans. And, the influx of those crowds would not be an unusual occurrence. Just check out a Michigan football game on any fall Saturday.
No country in the world can compete with the U.S. in terms of the sheer number of world-class stadiums. There are already plenty of hotel rooms and transportation options, and planned federal stimulus spending on both physical and internet infrastructure will elevate what are already more-than-adequate support structures to as good as those anyplace in the world.
Oh, yea, and the ethnic diversity in this country means every team in the World Cup will have a following. Not just the Italians and Irish and Colombians and Mexicans, but the Saudis, Koreans, Chinese and Cameroonians.
So, it clearly is a no-brainer where the World Cup should be.
I think so is the site of the final.
That should be at the new Meadowlands Stadium. Nothing against, LA, which hosted the final in 1994, or Dallas, which is clearly building a super facility, but an 80,000 seat stadium in the biggest, most vibrant city in the world (I know it’s in New Jersey, but only six miles from Times Square), should be a slam dunk.