Monday, July 27, 2009

President Obama and the World Cup

FIFA president Sepp Blatter visited the White House today, and the talk was of World Cups. Both current and future.

(Here is a link to the news story.)

Both the 2010 edition, to which American president Barack Obama has, again, been invited ...

And for the 2018 or 2022 editions, for which Obama did a bit of lobbying for the U.S. as host country.

First, the 2010 WC in South Africa. It is the first World Cup in Africa, and it seems somehow incumbent on the first black U.S. president to make an appearance. We suspect he will, unless some serious international craziness is going down.

Obama's connection to Africa is quite direct. Unlike most African-Americans, whose African heritage includes ancestors who came to the United States, as slaves, 100, 200, even 300 years ago, Obama's father was born in Kenya.

So, yes, he will go to South Africa, if at all possible.

Now, about the 2018 or 2022 World Cup.

2014 is already decided; it is going to Brazil, and South America deserves it. Considering South American sides have won nine of the 18 World Cups played so far, yet haven't hosted one since 1978 (Argentina).

But after that ...

It would make sense for FIFA to bring the event back to the States. The 1994 World Cup was here, and it was an enormous success. It remains the World Cup record-holder for attendance, and by a wide margin, because the U.S. has so many enormous venues. And filled them. Repeatedly. The U.S. also has significant immigrant populations from just about any country you can name, so even if fans don't travel from the other side of the world ... they would have plenty of fans already in the States.

The 1994 World Cup also served as a jumpstart for the American domestic league that has done much to advance the game here.

It's hard to imagine a World Cup here being a bad idea. The infrastructure is pretty much here (though it's hard to travel from one end of the country to the other, unlike a compact Euro country) ... the experience is here ... the communications and technology are here ... and the U.S. remains a quite-not-tapped market. Maybe soccer never catches American football, baseball and basketball as one of the Big Three sports ... but it could get closer, and a World Cup on these shores could go a long way toward making that happen.

We shall see. In theory, it should be time, in 2018, for a return to North America. it will have been 24 years since 1994. But it appears as if FIFA is planning to go back to Europe in 2018, probably to England.

So, 2022. Shall we pencil it into our datebook?

1 comment:

  1. One of the guys on some other soccer blog pointed out this weekend that the crowds and the TV ratings for the Confed Cup, Gold Cup and the World Football Showdown or whatever it's called show that soccer actually is becoming mainstream in the U.S. Just not MLS. He pointed out that whenever quality soccer (or in the case of the Gold Cup, the teams with lots of ex-pats) play, the stadiums are well full.

    it's an interesting point, and one I think that FIFA would be smart to watch. When friendlies between Chelsea and Inter draw 80K and a decent TV audience, that means something.

    That said, I fully expect it to go to England in 2018. That way, they have the Olympics, Rugby World Cup and Soccer World Cup all in the same decade, which was the big plan.