- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 14, 2009

NEW YORK (AP) - U.S. President Barack Obama wrote a letter to FIFA president Sepp Blatter supporting the American bid to host the World Cup in 2018 or 2022.

“As a child, I played soccer on a dirt road in Jakarta, and the game brought the children of my neighborhood together,” Obama said, according to excerpts released Tuesday by the U.S. Soccer Federation. “As a father, I saw that same spirit of unity alive on the fields and sidelines of my own daughters’ soccer games in Chicago.”

FIFA’s executive committee will decide the hosts for both tournaments in December 2010. The United States hosted the World Cup for the first time in 1994, and the 52 games drew records for total attendance (3.59 million) and average (68,991).

“Soccer is truly the world’s sport, and the World Cup promotes camaraderie and friendly competition across the globe,” Obama wrote. “That is why this bid is about much more than a game. It is about the United States of America inviting the world to gather all across our great country in celebration of our common hopes and dreams.”

England and Spain, which submitted a joint bid with Portugal, are considered the favorites to host in 2018, with the U.S. seen as a favorite for 2022.

Australia, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico and Russia also are bidding, with Netherlands-Belgium submitting a joint bid. Qatar and South Korea applied for 2022 only.

“It’s clear from talking to people around the world that President Obama carries extraordinary respect and hope,” U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati said. “That he’s supporting our bid at the same time he’s reaching out to the world in so many ways can only be a huge positive for us as we move forward.”

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