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U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati And Other Board Members Discuss the USA's 2018/2022 FIFA World Cup Bid


U.S. Soccer President SUNIL GULATI

“Welcome everyone. As we have been intimating and talking for the better part of the last two years, we have formally advised FIFA that it’s our intention to bid for the 2018/2022 World Cups. The reason that the process has taken longer for us to make our official decision is because the rules of the game haven’t been outlined until relatively recently with this notion of a double-tender of selecting two World Cup cycles in December 2010. When we found that out, and we’ve anticipated that for quite some time, it was a relatively easy decision. So we’ve thrown our names into the hat and advised FIFA officially on Friday. Today is the deadline so you no doubt read that other countries have made a decision to bid or not bid.

“What I really want to do in very quick order is announce some of the other members of our team. I’m going to keep my comments brief as I’m sure we’ll have lots of questions about them. I think we’ve put together a great team to start this process and I think we’ll be adding to that over the next months with people from the soccer community, people that are prominent Americans and individuals that are part of the soccer community and some that aren’t.

“Let me start today with the initial member of the World Cup Bid Committee Board of Directors. Some of them happen to be sitting here with me. First, a name that you all know very well, we’re sitting in the MLS office today, Don Garber, commissioner of Major League Soccer will be one of our initial four board members. Obviously, Don’s responsibilities in running the league are critical to the development of the game in the United States. Another name that you know equally well is Dan Flynn, who is the Chief Executive Officer of the U.S. Soccer Federation, that other big institution that is responsible for developing the game. A name that some of you will know but not so much in the soccer world, although increasingly involved in the soccer world, Phil Murphy, who was the principal of Murphy Endeavors, a longtime partner at Goldman Sachs and, most recently, chairman of the Democratic National Committee’s finance arm. He’s just resigned that position, so he obviously helped the Democrats and the current president raise a lot of money. Phil is also on the board of the United States Soccer Foundation and is also the principal owner and investor of the Sky Blue team in the soon-to-be Women’s Professional Soccer league, soon to start in another month. All three have dedicated themselves to the effort of bringing the World Cup back here. They’ve all been fans for a long time, involved in different capacities and I think share the talent that we’re looking for. In the next couple weeks we’ll announce one or two more board members and over the next several months we’ll add to that list.

“I also want to introduce today, we are absolutely thrilled to have convinced David Downs, president of Univision Sports, to make last Friday his last day at Univision Sports. Good for us and we think, over time, it will be good for Univision as they see the World Cup come back to the United States. I have known David for a long time, as have my colleagues here. He was, for many years, at ABC Sports and a key player in their soccer coverage and, frankly, going back to ’94, one of the key people involved in making sure that the ’94 games in the U.S. were covered without commercial interruption; the first time that had happened in the U.S. He’s been at Univision for 10 years and a friend of the sport, and obviously Univision has been a big World Cup partner for FIFA. We have advised FIFA and they were very enthusiastic and positive about David joining our team. He’s an avid player, coach and parent; his son has played in college. He’s someone who knows the FIFA inner-workings quite well, who loves the game and has been a part of the game for many years and obviously knows the business part of the sport in the United States and, certainly the television business. We are excited about this. We think we will be a great host if we are lucky enough to win this competition over the next two years.”

On whether he thinks it is more likely that the 2018 FIFA World Cup will be held in Europe because 2010 and 2014 will be held outside of Europe:
SG: “There seems to be a lot of people who are ascribing to that view. I think probably the more critical issue is that out of the 24 votes of the FIFA Executive Committee, eight belong to Europe, nine when one counts the FIFA president, so that the notion that it needs to be back in Europe because two have been outside the key continent, for commercial reasons, doesn’t hold up because the United States can offer all those commercial advantages, whether it be sponsors, television or anything else, or ease of a tournament. The World Cup has never been away from Europe for that long, so going in, I can understand how people would come to that conclusion. If somewhere along the way we come to the same conclusion, then we may focus on one or the other, but as it stands today, we are certainly in the hunt for either.”

On what he thinks another World Cup would do for the United States, above and beyond what the 1994 FIFA World Cup did:
SG: “I think, so we’re all working off the same page, what ’94 did, it’s important to understand that. Out of ’94, we launched a professional league that isn’t the Premier League or La Liga today but I’d like to understand where those two leagues were 14 years in. We have half a dozen brand new soccer-specific stadiums, we have television coverage in both languages. And, on a television side, we have a lot of television coverage of soccer all around the world. In fact, more of that comes in the United States than anywhere else; fan affinity, even the ratings for the European championship. It’s certainly raised the profile of the game in the United States but in my view, it’s unfinished business. It’s still not the same as it is in some other countries. So, 20 years later, it’s not 20 years now but a few years from now as we are 20 years past ’94, I think we’ll be able to look back and see it as a defining moment in all those areas. We’ll be starting a women’s professional league in the next few weeks, so there are a lot of other things that can happen when we have the sort of lead time we could have prior to 2018 or 2022, to submit what was really started a few years before ’94 in the build-up. I think FIFA recognized that and we certainly recognized that.”

On whether the U.S. could lose in 2018 and still be considered for 2022, and whether one year is preferred over the other:
SG: “The rules as they’ve been currently laid out are that both will be decided on the same day, 2018 first and then 2022. The only criteria that affects what happens on the second vote are two-fold, what happens on the first one and because the preceding two continents to host World Cups are excluded, for that first World Cup, no South American country and no African country can bid. For the second vote of the day, in theory, an African country, if they submitted their interest by today, could bid for only one, which would be that second World Cup. That will be the first constraint. The second is, whatever continent is chosen for 2018, would be precluded from being in the mix for 2022. As we understand it, and something may have changed today, there are no bidders from Africa and there can’t be any bidders from South America. It would be Europe and, either Asia—and it looks to be four bidders from Asia—and it looks to be two bidders from CONCACAF. So, we would make a decision on the first. If a European country, for example, was chosen, the rest of the European countries would be excluded from being candidates for the second. And, vice-versa, if a CONCACAF or an Asian country was chosen for 2018, then all the European countries would automatically be eligible for 2022. I think, sooner is always better, in the case of a country like the United States because we are talking about infrastructure investments. We’re not talking about building stadiums, we’re not talking about need to build highways, hotels, airports or any of those sorts of things. From that perspective, we don’t need more time to build any infrastructure. Clearly you would like some build-up to the event itself. Whether that is giving preference to people that are season ticket holders of our league teams, that are fans of our national teams, cities that have participated in inner-city programs, all those sorts of things are going to be important in a competition for where we play the games in the U.S. but there aren’t any infrastructure issues, so we’d be open to either one, neither one has a particular advantage with the exception of, sooner is always better.”

On whether there has been communication with the current administration in the White House and how that could help leading up to the bidding process:
SG: “I don’t there’s any doubt for any of us that what happened over the last several months and what happened two weeks ago in Washington, D.C., has dramatically changed the view of the United States and its leadership around the world. It would be impossible to think anything differently. For those of us who travel the world quite a bit, that is noticeable, that is audible and it’s visible. That clearly is a positive, frankly, for Chicago bidding for the Olympics and for any effort to bring the World Cup back here. Having said that, we thought, given the other issues that the President has on his plate right now and being in office for a couple of weeks, that we’d give him another few days to get the economy and a few security interests around the world taken care of first. But I am quite sure that given that President Obama has said, everything he stands for, everything he’s talked about in terms of reaching out to the world, that trying to bring the global game to the United States and opening our borders up for a festival of 32 countries and hundreds of thousands of people from all corners of the world would be viewed in a very positive way.”

On whether he has been in contact with U.S. cities interested in serving as FIFA World Cup venues:
SG: “We haven’t reached out to cities. A number have reached out to us just by seeing our announcement about interest in the World Cup. We’ve had conversations or correspondence from leadership in cities, leadership in convention and visitor’s bureaus and so on. The selection of cities, in one way will be a very hard task, in other ways it won’t be. I say that for the following reasons; we’ve got 25, 30, 35, 40 venues in the country, cities and stadiums, that could host a World Cup, and some stadiums that haven’t been built yet that could host a World Cup in 2018 and some that aren’t on a planning board yet that could host a World Cup in 2022. We’ve got plenty of time. Given the especially long lead time that FIFA is allowing in this case, not between now and decision day, but between decision day and actually hosting the event, we think that level of competition, deciding the actual cities, will happen after we’re awarded a bid. Clearly, going into the bid, we’d need guarantees from cities, guarantees about stadiums, guarantees about advertising, all those sorts of things, and we would have that. But, frankly, the notion is that our bid would include anywhere from 25 to 35 potential cities with signed agreements for either World Cup, eventually bringing that down to within the range of nine to as many as 13 or 14, potentially.”

On whether having been a venue in 1994 gives cities an advantage over other potential sites:
SG: “I don’t think having hosted in ’94 gives one a necessary advantage. Given how many other stadiums and venues come into play, one could argue that we should probably go to some new cities. The one thing that we’ve talked about internally here, while costs go up dramatically when you increase the number of venues, we believe that in a country of the United States, the size, the scope, the venues that are available to us, the more cities the better in general terms because we can carry the message further and more directly. We have a lot of options across the country, obviously most of our venues are on one of the coasts. There are a few in the Midwest and the Mideast, but generally the population centers are where we have our biggest cities and therefore our biggest venues.”

On why FIFA decided to do two bids at the same time:
SG: “I think it has a lot to do with two things. They see that the lead time in certain countries would greatly enhance the ability of certain countries to host a World Cup, if you know that you’re out there eight or 12 years in advance. That’s not a factor for us. I don’t think it’s a factor for the European countries. It might well be a factor for Australia, which has indicated a bidding intention, for Mexico, for Qatar, where you need that sort of time to build venues and infrastructure. That’s one. Two is, on the commercial side, knowledge of where the venues are going to be 12 years in advance enhances FIFA’s ability to lock in long-term contracts and so on. I think the last is, when you’re only bidding one World Cup and you have any sort of rotation policy, it’s a long time before it can come back to you. So, at the expense of the particular countries involved in bidding, if you know it’s going to be 20 years before it can come back, it’s going to be very difficult, as you know, with the notion of rotation, the notion of you can’t host a World Cup except every third time in a particular confederation and finally settled on something, which we’re very supportive of and we think is to our advantage.”

On what the parameters will be for stadium sites will be:
SG: “The minimum specs are that most stadiums have to be over 40 [thousand], with the opening and final over 80 [thousand]. We have an abundance of stadiums in this country. I think Alan Rothenberg got it exactly right when he moved us out of some smaller venues back in 1991 and 1992 and went for big stadiums, went for the final at the Rose Bowl, went for seven games at the Rose Bowl. When you start doing the economics, those extra 30,000 seats make a big difference in your ability to make the financial success you need. We’re going to have stadiums in this country which are between 80 and 90,000 seats that have never hosted a game. We’re talking about 14 years from now. Dallas is building a stadium. New Jersey is building a stadium. We have stadiums with domes, we have stadiums without domes. We have stadiums in the Northeast, we have stadiums in the Southwest. Does a current stadium in the Bay Area work? It would be hard to say that it does, but 14 years is a long time and I’d be shocked if something doesn’t happen in that time.”

On whether there has been contact with the Dallas Cowboys about using their new stadium:
SG: “Not directly. But we’ve obviously seen comments made by the ownership group of the team that they are interested in hosting international soccer. I expect there will be some this year at the stadium involving some teams that we’d all love to see play. It’s a huge stadium, it’s a phenomenal stadium and it was built with soccer in mind, so the field size and the capacity are perfect for the World Cup. It’s something that we would certainly be very interested in. We’ve had conversations in the past with the Jones family about soccer, not in the last few months.”

On how the criteria have changed from the ’94 World Cup bid:
SG: “The bidding has become much more competitive since we last did this in 1987 and ’88. The number of countries that have applied should be a pretty strong indication of that. FIFA’s requirements have become much more rigorous. Those two go hand-in-hand as more people are interested, FIFA can raise the bar. All of those things, whether it’s stadium capacity, security issues, we live in a different world so for any number of reasons, the requirements that FIFA imposes are much tougher, on commercial issues, on everything. We think we can meet all of those standards.”

On whether he has heard anything from the New York area about interest in hosting the World Cup:
SG: “We have had some very gentle discussions, and I’m not going to get into specifics about it, with a number of people that have reached out to us from venues. I mentioned that Alan got it absolutely right in terms of the large stadiums in ’94. Playing at Giants Stadium was an important part of that decision. New York is still a pretty important city, internationally, so the thought of playing of playing across the river in New Jersey at a brand new stadium that is shared by the Jets and Giants is certainly appealing to us.”

On whether FIFA makes a distinction between North and South America when considering bids for the World Cup:
SG: “They make a 100 percent clear distinction. Brazil is in the South American confederation. We are not in that confederation, we are eligible to bid and have been encouraged to do so by FIFA, so there is no issue about Brazil hosting in 2014 and us hosting in 2018 or 2022.”

On what his thoughts are about selecting stadiums in areas of the U.S. where soccer already has a strong fan-base as opposed to stadiums in regions where soccer is still developing:
SG: “We have somewhere between December 2010 and between four to six years, depending on which World Cup we’re talking about, to figure that out. I think it would be a mix. Most of our major venues that are 70,000 seats and above are obviously in large cities. There are some college campuses that also have 70, 80, 90 and 100,000-seat stadiums, but it would be a mix of those. Certainly, you’ve mentioned specifically along the border, in terms of the Mexican-American population, those are some of our hotbeds. We would, I’m sure, be in some of those cities, but some of those cities aren’t along the border. They also exist in Chicago and New York and Florida. The message means we’re not thinking about a regional event to make travel easier or to make climate easier. I think we’ll be all over the country as we were in 1994 if we’re lucky enough to host.”

On the speculation that the U.S. will enter into a vote-trading agreement in order to ensure that Europe will be awarded the 2018 FIFA World Cup and the U.S. will be awarded the 2022 edition:
SG: “I have three of our board members here and none of us have the vote in either of these elections. CONCACAF, we hope, will support us. We hope Europe, as well as a few other confederations will support us. I’m hoping that we get a lot of votes from all over the world. None of us are on the FIFA Executive Committee, so directly we have nothing to trade. Will there be agreements and discussions with other bidders, of course, I’m sure that will be the case when you have this double-tender being put out.”

On whether a joint CONCACAF bid was considered:
SG: “The U.S. and Mexico have only fought each other for a bid once, and that was in an emergency situation in 1983. We’ve never really been competitors to host any FIFA event until now and we’ll see how this one goes over the next year or two. We’ve heard several comments out of FIFA about the possibility of joint bids and the current ruling of the FIFA Executive Committee is that they would only consider a joint bid if there were no single-country bidder that could meet their specifications. That’s certainly not the case here with some of the European countries or with us. We are going to be bidding alone. Mexico has indicated their interest and we’ll leave it to them to decide how far they want to take that. We’re confident with what U.S. Soccer can offer FIFA and the world’s game.”

On the possibility of two CONCACAF countries dropping out of the race to support a single bid from the region:
SG: “Unless I’ve missed something today, the Canadians haven’t submitted anything. So, it would only be Mexico, and I’m quite sure that before any final vote were taken, CONCACAF would be unified, just as I would expect Asia or Europe to be unified behind a particular country. That’s not going to happen tomorrow, but I suspect that it would be long before Dec. 10, 2010.”

On the extent of the rumors about giving the bid to a country that has never hosted:
SG: “I think in the current situation that would mean we’ll be going to Indonesia, Qatar, Australia or Russia. The answer is no, I’m not hearing any of that. If anything, I’m hearing the opposite. The ability to put on a World Cup, especially in the world economic environment we’re in, that calls for major public sector spending on facilities or infrastructure is something that is a big challenge for a lot of countries. We are not relying on that. Obviously with the next two hosts they have to rely on that, and I understand that. We’ve all read stories about that from South Africa and Brazil that the public sector is going to be heavily involved in the financing of stadiums. So, I think we offer something very different. We’re not asking for public funds, and I think after South Africa and Brazil, FIFA would be very happy to go to a country or countries that have experience, a proven capability of sporting event management and have large markets. So, I’m not hearing that at all.”

On the biggest competitors to the bids:
SG: “We are in competition for two World Cups that we and Europe are eligible for. England has talked more about 2018, for example. I can’t imagine a scenario where a country is selected for 2018 and therefore ruling out the rest of the confederation members, but then everyone else saying, ‘we don’t want 2022 because we only wanted 2018.’ No one has said that to date and there’s no reason to say that. If in the next 12 months FIFA decides differently and says that one competition will be only for Europe, then of course we would look at things differently. Until then, Mexico, England, Indonesia, Qatar, Australia, Japan, Russia, Spain and Portugal are all our competitors. Do we consider some of them more of a threat to our successful candidacy than others? No, I think there are a number of countries that are capable of hosting the World Cup and that would do a good job. I would think that we’d be at the top of that list.”

On whether he’s confident in Brazil hosting the 2014 FIFA World Cup:
SG: “I’m convinced that Brazil will host the World Cup in 2014. We have no thoughts or intentions of being a ‘Plan B’ or anything like that. Our main interest in 2010 is getting our team qualified and then being successful in South Africa. The same is true for the Brazilian World Cup in 2014.”

On how the U.S. will market their bid:
SG: “We think we’ll do things in an American way. The most important part of the bid is that it’s successful, and I think that over the next several months you’ll see some prominent American individuals that have a love for the game be a part of our effort. We don’t have any Americans who have won the World Cup as a player and a coach like Franz Beckenbauer. We don’t have someone who has quite the same story as Nelson Mandela. We have a President who is known throughout the world right now as a leading light for change, and we think he can be an inspirational figure, not just for a bid frankly because obviously he has other more important things to work on. I think what will happen is that we’ll have 300 million proponents. I don’t mean literally every person in America, but we’ve got a growing Hispanic population which loves the game. We’ve got people that we’ve found out about through this process who love the game, in very high levels of government and industry, because they have kids that play the game. It might not have the same flash as some of the other World Cup bids, but that’s not really the relevant part. The only thing that matters is the 13 votes at the end of the day and that’s what we’ll work to. It will have some flash, I promise you that, but we’re not going to spend absurd amounts of money unless we know that it’s going to be directly successful, especially in the situation of the economy worldwide today. We think that would be inappropriate, if not impractical.”

On how he thinks people remember the 1994 World Cup:
SG: “I think overall, the response was overwhelmingly positive. We set attendance records at that World Cup that stand today. In overall attendance, we played 12 fewer games than the three successive World Cups and our overall attendance records still hold. I think people had an extraordinary time. For those of us who live here, we understand how different Boston is from Dallas, Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, Birmingham or the Bay Area. I think it was a great experience for people who came to the United States for the first time, or who had been here before but saw different parts of the country. I think they’ve seen the growth of the game since then with Major League Soccer, a Women’s Professional League and with the success of our teams. People have been surprised by a lot of what the United States has done. There were a lot of doubters about the World Cup in 1994 and whether we could fill stadiums, but we did that. There were a lot of doubters when we started a professional league, but we did that. There were a lot of doubters about whether we would be around after a few years, and we’ve done that and now have more people who want to get into our league than we ever had before. It’d be hard to say that we’ve done anything here in the United States but disprove any questions or concerns people had internationally. There will be some who will doubt us again I’m sure, but I think the people who were here had an overwhelmingly positive experience and attitude about a World Cup in the United States.”

On whether he will do anything differently after experiencing the 1994 World Cup:
SG: “That’s a question that gets asked so often of us in various parts of our lives and I’m always amazed at people who say that they wouldn’t have done anything differently. I would do almost everything differently if I could just re-do yesterday. Certainly, what we learned throughout our experiences between 1988 and 1994 that will be of great benefit to us. Whether it’s the selection of stadiums, selection of training sites, pricing of tickets, our organizational structure or logo design, all of those things you can only learn by doing. Anyone doing this a second time would have a huge advantage as far as a learning curve. Having said that, obviously you want to bring in new people that bring fresh ideas, but the thought that we wouldn’t have learned a lot would be silly. We learned a lot and one of the biggest things that came out of 1994 was the people who are now experienced in the management of the game. A number of people who worked in 1994 are working in Major League Soccer, the women’s league, the CEO of U.S. Soccer was a venue director, Dan Flynn. Our Managing Director of Administration, Tom King, was a venue director in Detroit. We’ve got a number of people who were directly involved in 1994 who have gone on to careers in the sport and have expertise and have benefited from that. We certainly learned a lot.”

On the biggest challenge of the bid process:
SG: “There are a lot of competitors and it’s a tough competition. In the end, 24 people decide and you can never know what’s going to motivate them in terms of what they think is best for the sport in the world. We’ve got some very fierce competitors. Our neighbor, Mexico, has hosted two spectacular World Cups. England is home to the No. 1 league in the world in the eyes of many. Spain has put on many great events and has a terrific national team. Australia obviously brings something new. There are a lot of very strong competitors. Russia has a lot of resources at its disposal, and I could keep going through all of the competitors. That’s the biggest obstacle. We’re not going to have a situation like the 2014 bid where FIFA deemed that it was going to South America and there was only one candidate. I would love that situation, but we’re completely prepared for and expecting competition. That’s why we’ve put together a great team and we will add to that and put resources into it that will make sure we put in the absolute best bid we can and do everything we can to get a minimum of 13 votes.”

On the possible role Southern California will play:
SG: “It’s premature to get into any specifics. The number of new venues that we have in the United States, even just looking at the NFL, we’ve had more than 10 built in the last eight years. If we were bidding eight years ago, those stadiums didn’t exist. In 1994 we wouldn’t have been thinking about too many stadiums with retractable domes or in warm climates. Obviously we did play in Texas and Florida and it was hot. Today we could play in Houston and Phoenix with retractable domes in world class, state of the art stadiums. We’re going to have another one of those in Dallas and Boston. We’ll have another one of those in New Jersey and Seattle, a renovated stadium in Chicago, Cleveland, Cincinnati and so on. Los Angeles is obviously a very important market, and it’s a big market with two MLS teams and the National Training Center. There is an on going saga about getting an NFL team and a new or renovated, stadium and I’d love to say that the prospect of a World Cup could help the city and state come to a conclusion to that process. However, given the budgetary issues that exist around that I don’t know. Is it an important market? Yes. We have more national team players that come out of Southern California than anywhere else in the country. There are still more international games played there than anywhere else in the United States. The city and the state will have several years to try to make sure they have a stadium that will work for the World Cup. Obviously in both the Rose Bowl and the Coliseum, there is a lot of history there in the sport of soccer, but neither one right now is up to the standard of the new stadiums that exist in other cities.”

On what role CONCACAF would play in the bid:
SG: “I hope that when we work with them that we’ll have their three votes by the end of this process. I spoke last night with the General Secretary of CONCACAF (Chuck Blazer) and they are supportive of our bid. They are also supportive of Mexico’s bid in the same way that UEFA hasn’t taken a position on the multiple bidders in Europe. I wouldn’t have expected CONCACAF leadership and the executive committee members from this region to support us in place of Mexico. Having said that, we’ve had detailed and on-going discussions with CONCACAF leadership over the last two years about our ideas, our game plan and even in the case of our Executive Director. He was an important executive in a company that is important to all of us who are involved in the game. Univision is an important part of CONCACAF, U.S. Soccer and Major League Soccer. We wanted to have that discussion with them and we did. They understand exactly where we’re going, why we’re going there and how we plan to get there. They’re supportive of that.”

On what advantage a U.S. bid would have over Mexico’s bid:
SG: “I guess I would simply point to the 1994 World Cup. If we were to catalogue the top 50 stadiums in North America, I’m going to leave it to everyone on the call to figure out how many of those are in the United States. I think it’s a pretty strong majority. We have a great relationship with the Mexican Federation for all but about 90 minutes a year and we look forward to this competition. But we think the advantages that the U.S. can offer FIFA as far as the development of the game will become very clear over the next 20 months.”

On whether the Chicago 2016 Olympic bid will impact the World Cup bid:
SG: “The only effect the Olympic bid has on us is that the Japanese Federation has said that unless Tokyo wins the right to host the Olympics, they don’t think they will be able to host the World Cup in 2018 or 2022. That’s the only effect I see in terms of our bid. We obviously are supportive of Chicago’s bid, but it doesn’t directly impact us.”

On whether kick off times would have to be set with European prime time in mind:
SG: “I think a few things will have happened between 1994 and 2018 or 2022, with the growth in Asian markets being one and the television rights fees being another. We also have cities that are capable of hosting games in the daytime in a cold climate. That has not been a necessary part of the specifications of the last two World Cup bids, pinning down times. Those decisions get made after. I don’t believe that will have to be part of the specifications that we’ll have to fill in now. Will there be some discussion of those? Yes. But if we are talking about a situation that might be eight to 12 years away, that’s a far longer period of time than previous World Cups have had. The discussions we had about television leading into 1994 didn’t happen in 1986, 1987 or 1988. They happened in 1990 and 1991. So, we’re talking about things that might happen in 13 years.”

On whether he considers this his greatest challenge and possibly his greatest legacy:
SG: “We are not worried about legacies other than the legacy of this sport and we think this is an important piece of that puzzle and can give the sport a further boost. Is it our greatest challenge? It’s certainly a big challenge to bring it back here again but we’ve done it once. Is it as big of a challenge as winning a World Cup? Of course not, and there isn’t anyone in the room who isn’t dreaming of that. I’m not saying it’s going to happen in Johannesburg next year, but we still dream of that. That’s a pretty big challenge that we’re still working on as well.”

Executive Director of U.S. World Cup Bid DAVID DOWNS

“I’m going to be quite brief, as this day should be about the challenge we are embarking on and not about me. I do need to thank Sunil and the other board members for entrusting me with this responsibility. I’m very honored to be part of the efforts to bring the World Cup back to American shores. I look forward, with enthusiasm, to the challenges ahead in this bid process. I know that the United States has all of the qualities necessary to once again host a first-class tournament. We have dozens of high-capacity, state-of-the-art stadiums as well as the municipal infrastructure that will ensure a quality experience for the athletes, the officials, the media and spectators alike. Since we last held the World Cup in 1994, the U.S. has grown tremendously as a soccer-friendly nation. Soccer is obviously not yet our No. 1 national sport, but we now have a flourishing professional league, soccer-only television networks in both English and Spanish-language and a national team that consistently ranks in the top-25 in the world and actually has participated in five straight World Cup tournaments, which is a feat matched by only six other countries on the planet. More than that, the United States is a nation that is founded on the diversity of its people and a nation which, arguably, still sets the world standard for diversity to this day. We’re a country where every family can find a minimum of two teams to root for and some families can boast many more than that. And, of course, we’re a country that always has, and always will, open its arms to the citizens of the world. So, what better place to hold a global gathering of 32 soccer-playing nations?”

On what his immediate focus and strategy will be as he leads the effort to bid for the FIFA World Cup:
DD: “It’s my first day on the job, so you’re putting me on the spot a little bit. Immediately, we have to respond to the specs of the FIFA bid that’s being sent to us in approximately two weeks time. We certainly need to hire out a small staff of people. We’re going to contract with some professional help as well to push this thing forward. We’d like to reach out to cities that are potential candidates to host the sites. There’s a lot of detail work that goes in to putting an organization together like this. That’s what I’m going to spend my first few weeks on.”

Commissioner of Major League Soccer, DON GARBER

On what role Major League Soccer will play in the bid process:
DG: “Well, let me start by saying that we are where we are today because of the 1994 World Cup. Without it, I don’t think Major League Soccer would exist. Should we get the World Cup in either 2018 or 2022, I think it would have a similarly major impact on the league as far as the passion and knowledge that people have in this country for this sport. Major League Soccer has always worked closely with the Federation to build the sport in our country, and we’ll continue to work closely with Sunil and the rest of the committee to do whatever we can to help the United States win the bid. I don’t believe that the world of football looks at the quality or Major League Soccer as a judge of whether a World Cup would be successful. We’re very proud of that quality and how far we’ve developed over the last decade or so. Remember the most successful World Cup in terms of attendance and other things happened before the league even existed.”

On how he hopes to see the MLS cities rewarded by hosting World Cup matches:
DG: “It’s still so far away, and I would expect that before a World Cup would be played here there will be many more cities with Major League Soccer teams. Most of the major markets in this country do have teams or soon will, so I’m not sure it’s all that relevant. I think that if you look at whether this country has ‘earned the right’ to host a World Cup based on the level of passion that exists, not just for the game internationally but also the domestic game, I believe the answer to that is yes. Whether it’s based on a national broadcast or in local support of teams, there has been tremendous development of the sport over the last number of years.”

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