FIFA delegation concludes tour in Houston
The 24-member executive committee of soccer’s governing body will vote on Dec. 2. Europe is expected to be awarded the 2018 tournament, with England, Russia, Spain-Portugal and Belgium-Netherlands competing. The U.S. is facing Australia, Japan, Qatar and South Korea for 2022.
The inspectors also visited New York, the White House, Miami and Dallas before Houston.
Harold Mayne-Nicholls, the head of the inspection delegation, said the group gathered all the necessary information to present a complete report to FIFA’s executive committee. He said he was confident that the U.S. could fulfill all the necessary standards set by FIFA to host the World Cup.
“All the stadiums we have visited, with some very small adjustments, would be great World Cup venues. There is no doubt about that,” Mayne-Nicholls said. “We have seen a number of excellent locations. All requirements and expectations should be met.”
U.S.soccer head Sunil Gulati, head of the U.S. bid committee for the World Cup, told Mayne-Nicholls that the next World Cup here would likely set records for attendance, ticket sales and international visitors. The U.S. drew a total of 3.6 million fans when it hosted the event in 1994, still a record.
“I don’t think hosting a successful event and setting multiple records should be a disadvantage,” Gulati said. “It will have been 28 years, if it’s 2022. Clearly, that’s an issue for some, going out to new and uncharted water, but we think there’s some advantages.
“FIFA knows we can do this, we’ve done it well, and we can do it again.”
“As you know, a World Cup only works if it becomes a fully national treasure,” he said.
Gulati was asked to compare this effort with Chicago’s failed bid to land the 2016 Olympics, also backed by the White House. Gulati said the process is totally different, and that effort has no bearing on this one.
“I’m not sure we learned very many specific lessons from the Chicago experience,” he said. “We’ve tried to do everything possible to make sure that we present a case for the U.S. that’s irresistible.
“We have a terrific infrastructure, but in the end, it’s not about having the infrastructure and having top-level stadiums,” Gulati said. “It’s about convincing 24 people that’s in the best long-term interest of the sport to come to the United States, and that’s what we’ve been doing for some period of time.”