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US hoping for spark from World Cup's return

NEW YORK — Nearly two decades after hosting the World Cup, the United States bid team is promising another burst of explosive football growth if FIFA's executive committee awards it the 2022 tournament.

The American bid will go up against Australia, Japan, Qatar and South Korea on Thursday in Zurich.

"We've got all of the infrastructure in place, and it's extraordinary infrastructure, which allows us to focus on growing the game and using the World Cup to do that in the United States and have the U.S. become an important part of the global community in this," U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati told The Associated Press. "I think it changes the economics in a positive way for FIFA and other associations."

The United States hosted a successful World Cup in 1994, leading to a permanent presence of the sport in America and a growing professional league preparing for its 16th season — albeit one that's still struggling to gain attention in a market dominated by the NFL, Major League Baseball and the NBA.

FIFA's technical report said a World Cup in the United States could average 76,000 spectators, breaking the record of 68,991 set at the 1994 tournament. It said there is medium legal risk because of a lack of government guarantees.

Gulati and his delegation have attempted to lobby the 22 voters. They'll bring along a delegation for the final presentation that includes former President Bill Clinton, national team player Landon Donovan, former women's team star Mia Hamm and her husband, former Boston Red Sox baseball player Nomar Garciaparra.

"It's an election," Gulati said. "And in some sense, in elections you never know where you are until the very last minute, until the vote is taken. There's not accurate polling, per se. So we'll continue to work until the last minute."

FIFA also is selecting the 2018 site that day, picking from among England, Russia, Spain-Portugal and Belgium-Netherlands.

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