As soccer fans in the United States of America, we probably all remember where we were when we found out that after years of anticipation and hard work, the United States had lost their 2022 World Cup bid to a country smaller than the 48th largest state in the United States, Connecticut. I also think we all remember how we felt when the announcement was made. It probably is not far-fetched to say that some kind of combination of shock, anger, and disappointment dominated our feelings. And with good reason too.
Qatar is a nation that has known issues with Israel, a possible qualifier for the 2022 World Cup. Qatar is a nation that prohibits the drinking of alcohol, something that may cause kind of a problem when dealing with the loads of soccer fans that are sure to swarm the country.
Qatar may be a very wealthy country, but its location also has problems. The average temperature high in Doha, Qatar, the capital and largest city of Qatar (large being a relative term, seeing as the population of the entire country is 840,926 according to the CIA World Factbook), in June is 107 degrees Fahrenheit (41 Celcius). And with Doha being located near the coast, humidity is sure to kick in. Now to combat this, Qatar plans on building air conditioned stadiums using technology that has not been invented yet. For the health and safety of the players, hopefully that technology gets invented real soon.
I mentioned anger above, and frankly there are multiple things to be angry at here. For starters, there are accusations of corruption running rampant amongst American soccer fans. And while conclusions should not be immediately jumped to, the voting patterns are worth an examination. From Fanhouse.
Round 1: Australia 1, Japan 3, South Korea 4, Qatar 11, USA 3 (Australia eliminated).
Round 2: Japan 2, South Korea 5, Qatar 10, USA 5 (Japan eliminated).
Round 3: South Korea 5, Qatar 11, USA 6 (South Korea eliminated).
Round 4: Qatar 14, USA 8 (Qatar wins).
In the first round of voting, the USA received the same number of votes as Japan and one less vote than Korea, two countries who hosted the World Cup in 2002 and were never odds on favorites to win it in 2022. Perhaps most interestingly of all, Qatar lost a vote in the 2nd round, only to seemingly get it back in the 3rd round. You can never discount the fact that someone may be ultra scatter-brained and had not made up their mind and instead went back and forth on voting, but doesn't it seem a little suspicious, at least from an outside perspective? FIFA swears on their life that it is not corrupt, but two oil rich countries were just awarded a World Cup where there is work to do to be ready. And this will be off the heals of a World Cup in South Africa where two schools were bulldozed in order to make room for a stadium in Nelspruit and off the heals of a World Cup in Brazil which is already way behind schedule. All the while, FIFA could have given the 2022 World Cup to the United States or Australia, two countries where the work needed to be done to host the World Cup would have been quite minimal, at least in comparison to the amount needed in Qatar. And after the work they put forth for South Africa and Brazil, and the improvements that need to be made in Russia, who would have blamed them for giving it to the United States, a nation with the facilities and the stadiums to host the World Cup tomorrow if need be.
But while people have every right to be angry, upset, and disappointed with this decision, there are reasons to back away from the cliff, so to speak. For all the talk about the size of Qatar, it is easily ignored that the United States is one of the largest countries in the world and that in comparison, other countries that we would consider viable alternatives are still relatively small. For example, England is only about the size of Louisiana. As much as we wanted this World Cup and believed we would get it considering the competition, there was reason to believe that it would not have happened. The United States would have been only the fifth nation to host the World Cup twice, with the other four being Italy, Germany, France, and Brazil. Of those nations, the one whose wait period between World Cups was the shortest was Germany with a 32-year wait period. Had the United States won 2022, they would have been hosting it with only a wait period of 28 years, 4 years shorter than Germany's wait period. And while Germany, France, Italy, and Brazil are all soccer powers that have won a World Cup, the United States, while improving slowly but surely, is not a world soccer power and have never won a World Cup.
There is hope for the future, though. With 2018 going to Russia and 2022 going to Qatar, the United States will be in a good position to reap the benefits of 2026. There are going to be plenty of obstacles, but the United States Soccer Federation has to be looking at 2026 with wide eyes and saying that is their time. Assuming things don't change (and that is a huge assumption; especially seeing in just the past four years Australia jumped from the Oceanic Football Confederation to the Asian Football Confederation), the Asian Football Confederation will be ineligible to host the 2026 World Cup, meaning that China, a once speculative favorite for 2026, is ineligible. Also ineligible: Japan and South Korea, both of whom also want back in on the World Cup, and Australia, a nation that would not have surprised many people had it won the hosting rights for 2022. Given the fact that Europe would have just hosted the 2018 World Cup, it may not get a serious look along with other European nations. That would essentially leave the USA competing against African nations and South American nations as nations with realistic shots of getting it. As much as we liked our chances for 2022, I think our chances may be even greater in 2026. Plus, four more years of time since the 1994 World Cup and the continued expansion and improvement of Major League Soccer should only serve to help matters.
USA for the 2026 World Cup, anyone?