United States bid offers FIFA safe bet for success

Washington: Nothing illustrates the growth of soccer in the United States better than the realisation that hosting the 2022 World Cup there is now regarded as a safe option for FIFA, compared to 1994 when it was considered a risk.

When FIFA awarded those finals to the United States in 1988, many observers felt world soccer`s governing body were taking a major risk in a country with little love for the game.

In some ways they were right because that World Cup was played out in a bubble.

There was interest in games in and around stadiums, but a short distance away there was little evidence that the World Cup was taking place. Few bars showed matches on television and the "street theatre" that traditionally accompanies the World Cup was missing.

Sixteen years later though, soccer has largely taken root and remarkably the US`s strong point as a candidate this time is that it would be a safe option as a country that has finally "found" the game.

Former President Bill Clinton is honorary chairman of the bid and if he were to adapt one of his old slogans to capture its strength it would surely be: "It`s the stadiums, stupid".

Unlike most countries bidding to hold the world`s biggest sporting event, the U.S. needs to do virtually nothing to have its stadiums ready to host large crowds in modern comfort.

Newly-built stadiums in Dallas and New York will not be quite as shiny in 12 years` time but they will certainly, along with other modern National Football League (NFL) venues, be more than ready for a World Cup.

The major US cities that are competing to be host cities -- back in 1994 they did not compete but had to be persuaded to volunteer -- are already geared up for big events.

They have the hotels and the services that fans, who will be on holiday as well as supporting their teams, have come to expect.

Bureau Report