A U.S.-based soccer World Cup in 2018 or 2022 would offer the sport both a "safe and easy" event, bid chairman Sunil Gulati said Friday on the occasion of formal submissions by six groups to host either of those championships. Three other countries are campaigning only for 2022, with host decisions for both to be rendered Dec. 2.
With the 2010 World Cup in South Africa four weeks away, and the 2014 tournament promised to Brazil, conventional wisdom holds that FIFA, soccer's global governing body, not only will face additional financial pressures but also security and facilities headaches at its next two tournaments.
In that light, a return to the United States, which in 1994 staged the most profitable and best-attended World Cup in history, not only would "meet all of FIFA's standards," Gulati said, but would do so "without needing any public funds and with no need to build facilities."
All 18 cities named as possible competition sites by the U.S. bid group already have stadiums in service, including the New Meadowlands Stadium. FIFA requires a minimum of 12 cities, Gulati noted, which allows wiggle room should the controversial new immigration laws in Arizona create uneasiness among soccer officials over placing games in the University of Phoenix stadium.
"Losing [Phoenix] need not cost us," he said. "It could cost the city."
Gulati spoke by teleconference from Zurich, Switzerland, where bid books were officially presented. Besides the United States, Australia, England, Russia and two joint bids - Belgium-Netherlands and Portugal-Spain - are aiming for the 2018 or 2022 tournament.
Gulati said the United States already has an edge over other contenders in several areas:
No other bid nation can offer the number of available tickets (five million), number of potential playing venues (18), hotel or airport availability or television rights potential.
"With all due respect to our opponents," Gulati said, "I don't see how anyone else can match us on a technical level."