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Gulati Speaks

Highlights from USSF President Sunil Gulati's teleconference with reporters:

On whether the USA has a realistic shot to host the 2018 World Cup or more likely 2022.....

"We're still very much bidding for 2018 and 2022. There are a number of people with the [FIFA] executive committee, certainly the European members, that think Europe should go first. I don't think there were any changes coming out of the meetings we had with [FIFA's Sepp Blatte this weekr] and anything he said subsequently."

On eventually narrowing the list of potential USA venues for a World Cup.....

"We've got really an extraordinary wealth of choices. ... It is impossible to predict at this time how we are going to get down to FIFA's requirement that no more than 18 recommendations [in the initial bid]. We might try to convince them.....

to let us have a couple more since we have so many extraordinary choices."

On the keen interest expressed by cities.....

"We are getting a receptivity that is very different than the one we had in 1986 or 1987 [for the 1994 World Cup]. Having been part of that effort back then, in many cases we'd have to explain what the World Cup was, when it was, how many games it was. In this case, that is a non-issue. We have got civic leaders, stadium leaders, team owners, politicians very interested in trying to bring the World Cup to their city. People understand what the World Cup is about."

Reflecting on the Gold Cup final.....

"To lose by that score to a rival is, of course, disappointing, one that is felt by me, by our players, by our coaching staff, by our fans. At the same time, most people recognize that the only overlap of the players available on Sunday from the Confederations Cup was Heath Pearce, who hadn't played in South Africa. That result is very, very disappointing and painful, even more so when we have the FIFA president sitting with us [at Giants Stadium] and who saw us play in the Confederations Cup. In great measure, we get a chance for redemption very quickly, something you don't normally get except in a home-and-away series. In this case, I am glad it is not an aggregate score issue. ... The group that played in the Gold Cup, for 5 1/2 games, did very well. I think a lot of people were surprised that we had that much depth and did as well as they did. There were a bad 30 minutes -- a very bad 30 minutes -- but I don't think it reverses or undoes the real progress we've shown in June and July."

Reaction to Mexico scheduling the World Cup qualifier for a weekday afternoon.....

"We understand they have the right to schedule it for whenever it fits, so we'll go the day before and play at 3 o'clock. I'm not sure if we were picking the time that we would choose 3 in Mexico City, but I'm pretty sure if they could choose a venue to play at, they would choose not to play in Columbus for our home game [in February]."

The status of German-American Jermaine Jones and Mexican-American Edgar Castillo.....

"I believe all the paperwork has been submitted to FIFA for [Jones's] change of eligibility and I'm not sure in the past couple days if the final paperwork has been submitted for Edgar Castillo. There's nothing really new to add when [they can play] -- I guess after October 2. it's up to Bob Bradley when to bring them in for a look and possible participation."

On the new FIFA rule allowing players to change affiliations.....

"We've got some concerns with the rule change that was passed, in general terms, in either direction [of the player movement]. We are likely to benefit by it more often than the alternative, but the thought that a player could play in the Olympics and theoretically play in a World Cup qualifying game a month later for another country is contrary to really the integrity of the national team set-up. It is permissible under the rules and we will certainly play by the rules, but my guess is that the rule will get looked at again in the next year or two by the FIFA Congress."

On the big crowds for foreign clubs this summer and the lower turnouts for MLS in general.....

"Sixty-five thousand people watched Chelsea play, but they watched them play the Seattle Sounders. When it's all said and done, the biggest crowd of the summer will be 90,000 to watch Barcelona play, but they'll play the L.A. Galaxy. My guess is that the second- or third-biggest crowd will be to watch Real Madrid play, but to play against D.C. United. ... It's not a question of watching the Harlem Globetrotters play. Our teams are getting more respect. Clearly we are not getting those attendances at MLS games, and it is an important question as to how we can tap into what is clearly an audience for high-level international games. It's a little bit chasing stars if we think most teams around the world would draw those sorts of attendances. If we were to have a tournament next summer with Stuttgart, Aston Villa, Olympique Marseille and pick another team, I don't think we'd have those same sorts of attendances. The teams that have come are two of the glory teams in Real Madrid and Barcelona, two or three of the top English and Italian teams, really the best teams in the world and biggest stars."

On discussions with Blatter about changing the MLS calendar to fall-to-spring.....

"In principle, both [MLS Commissioner Don Garber] and I agree that would be a good thing, but we've also explained to the FIFA president that temperatures in Chicago are not like the temperatures in London or Paris in January. They're more like Helsinki or Moscow. So the challenges are a little bit different. ... We can foresee being on a European-type calendar, but also pointing out that not everyone plays on that calendar, primarily for those weather reasons."

By Steve Goff  |  July 28, 2009; 5:35 PM ET
Categories:  2010 World Cup , Gold Cup , U.S. men's national team , USA World Cup bid , USSF  
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Comments

Interesting to note the change in attitude/awareness of the people running the venues.

Posted by: asocrlovr | July 28, 2009 5:42 PM | Report abuse

Europe should go first?

Since the 1994 World Cup:

1998: France

2006: Germany

Sorry!

Posted by: thamlin | July 28, 2009 5:46 PM | Report abuse

Move the Fire!

Posted by: Reignking | July 28, 2009 5:52 PM | Report abuse

I've got it!!! Every MLS team could have a dual identity -- two home cities. They could play the majority of their games in the more northerly cities we associate with them now. Then, in the winter months, they could play in Southern cities -- either with an alternate home city, or just touring like the barnstorming clubs of yore. Yeah -- that's the ticket.... For DC, I'm calling dibs on New Orleans. If we gotta have a sister city. let it be place that's fun to visit. Mardi Gras and United!!!

Posted by: fischy | July 28, 2009 5:54 PM | Report abuse

Thing you could do is take off from the middle of December through the end of January, and then play a winter tournament in warm-weather sites in Feb and early March...much like the Argentines do in January in summer vacation spots like Mar del Plata...

Posted by: targetmedia | July 28, 2009 5:59 PM | Report abuse

La Revolucion could call Miami (or maybe Havana?) their second home. The Bulls -- naturally Raleigh-Durham. The Seattle/Memphis Sound(ers). Chicago/Atlanta Fire would be a must. Toronto FC would have to be in Baton Rouge. Montreal would probably want to affiliate with New Orleans, but Saputo needs an MLS team first. Vancouver or Portland in San Diego. Colorado in Phoenix or Vegas. Philadelphia -- maybe Charleston or Birmingham....or Philadelphia, Mississippi.

Posted by: fischy | July 28, 2009 6:06 PM | Report abuse

like targetmedia says, there is an obvious compromise that would work just fine. Sweden, Norway, and Denmark play a fall through spring schedule and I know it's not any colder in Chicago in January than Oslo - average highs of 31 and 32 respectively.

The real issue, that the weather becomes a shield to protect from, is MLS doesn't want to compete with the very crowded sports calendar from fall to spring (NFL - NBA - NHL - college football and basketball). As it stands now, the only major MLS competition is baseball. This is also why the WNBA plays a similar calendar schedule to the MLS (sorry, but it's true).

I actually don't know whether it would help or hurt MLS to change to a fall - spring schedule (probably hurt), but weather isn't the central issue in this debate.

Posted by: diego_r | July 28, 2009 6:16 PM | Report abuse

Blatter had to have Chicago's weather explained to him. This means that he's offering up his opinion without the tiniest bit of research or thought. In a just world, that would be the end of this debate.

Posted by: Chest_Rockwell | July 28, 2009 6:16 PM | Report abuse

word up Chest.

Posted by: DadRyan | July 28, 2009 6:26 PM | Report abuse

Europe should go first?

Since the 1994 World Cup:

1998: France

2006: Germany

Sorry!

Posted by: thamlin | July 28, 2009 5:46 PM |

-------

Those are different countries within Europe. I really want the World Cup to be in the US as well but 16 or 20 years between hosting is really short. Since the inception of the World Cup only 5 nations have hosted it twice. Amazingly enough, Mexico had the shortest time between being hosts, 16 years.

Mexico, 1970 and 1986 - 16 years
Germany, 1974 and 2006 - 22 years
France, 1938 and 1998 - 50 years
Brazil, 1950 and 2012 - 52 years
Italy, 1934 and 1990 - 56 years

Spain, Argentina, and England have only hosted the tournament once. Australia, the Netherlands and Russia have never hosted the World Cup.

2022 is the most realistic chance we have. I think we should be the favorites but you never know how these things work (especially with Blatter in charge).

Posted by: diego_r | July 28, 2009 6:30 PM | Report abuse

oops, that's 32 years for Germany. How did Mexico manage to land two world cups in 16 years?

Posted by: diego_r | July 28, 2009 6:32 PM | Report abuse

@thamlin -- I think that's why the rotation system was scrapped. They went too soon again to the European well, with Germany. If they had picked Brazil or South Africa for 2006 and then Germany for 2010, I bet we'd still have an official rotation policy and the USA would be the pick in 2018. Unfortunately, there was no realistic host in South America or Africa for 2006 -- even with 2010 and 2014, they are pushing it.

The rotation system was always doomed. Down the road, Argentina might be a host again, and in 50 years maybe Colombia would get another shot to stage a Cup -- but the other South American nations are too small. Besides South Africa, it's hard to imagine another African country that would be picked to host, given the political instability and poverty that prevails. In CONCACAF, there are only 3 possible hosts. Asia has only 3 or 4. UEFA has at least 7 fantastic potential hosts (someday Turkey would be a strong 8th, maybe even Poland one day) -- more, if they keep allowing combined bids...

It's inevitable they will settle on a system with European hosts every second or third Cup. Europe has as many viable hosts as do all the other regions combined.

Posted by: fischy | July 28, 2009 6:37 PM | Report abuse

How did Mexico manage to land two world cups in 16 years?

Posted by: diego_r | July 28, 2009 6:32 PM |
---------------------------------------------

The '86 Cup was awarded to Colombia. FIFA pulled the plug less than 4 years before the finals. Basically, they couldn't pick a European host, because that would have looked bad. Canada, the USA and Mexico all bid to replace Mexico. Because it had a track record, and had relatively modern facilities (from the '70 Cup), Mexico got the nod again.

Posted by: fischy | July 28, 2009 6:42 PM | Report abuse

A couple of (rambling) points:
1) diego_r- you're correct that Denmark plays a "normal" fall to spring schedule, but Norway and Sweden both play spring to fall, just like MLS (and Brazil, and Russia, and Japan, etc. - I might take Blatter seriously if he was raising the same fuss over the calendars in those countries too). The difference is that most of those countries do take a break in June for international tournaments- and I agree that MLS needs to implement a June break as soon as possible (but also understand that it's problematic when some teams still don't have their own stadiums and thus don't have full control over scheduling).

2) I believe the reason Mexico hosted the World Cup twice only 16 years apart is that Colombia was the original host for '86, but couldn't get their act together and had to withdraw, so Mexico became the back-up host (I think the US also tried to get the '86 tournament when Colombia fell through, but Mexico got it instead; the US got 1994 partly in compensation for the failed '86 bid, but by that time the NASL had already folded... interesting to imagine if hosting in '86 would have changed things- for better or worse).

Posted by: ricky_b | July 28, 2009 6:54 PM | Report abuse

Oops, fischy beat me to it on the 1986 explanation. And not to beat a dead horse, but I thought I'd point out that surprisingly enough, Oslo and Stockholm are actually warmer than Chicago or Toronto in the winter. Gulf stream works wonders, I guess. Average high and low temperatures for each city in January:

Oslo 25 low, 32 high
Stockholm 28 low, 33 high
Chicago 16 low, 31 high
Toronto 17 low, 30 high

Posted by: ricky_b | July 28, 2009 7:03 PM | Report abuse

I think FIFA will play things safe in the relatively near future, with challenging (though I think rewarding) World Cups in South Africa and Brazil. I could see England, USA, then Australia - but China could be the elephant in the room there. You know they'll have to find a way for the Finals to be staged there at some point.

I think everything should be decided on the merit of the individual country - not confederation. So I'm glad the rotation policy has pretty much been scrapped. But this is still FIFA we're talking about, so you have to predict which crooked bet will win.

Posted by: Kev29 | July 28, 2009 7:04 PM | Report abuse

My memory is a bit hazy, but it may have been that Colombia bid on, and won, what was supposed to be a 16-team tournament. The first 24-team affair was in 1982, and I think Colombia was awarded the 1986 tournament well before that. They would have had their hands full with 16 teams, and 24 teams was just too much.

Posted by: cow_pasture | July 28, 2009 7:15 PM | Report abuse

This blog really needs a FAQ:

Q: Why should the US host another World Cup in 2018?
A: Because the 1994 Cup is still the most profitable WC on record despite the 24 team field.

Q: So?
A: It's the economy stupid.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | July 28, 2009 7:41 PM | Report abuse

this post might already be dead, but I figured I'd put my 2 cents in...

Europe with get the 2018 World Cup, I'm finally going to put my money on it. Spain(Portugal) will be the frontrunners. Madrid is pushing to be a real player in the world again, Spanish athletes are winning everything, all the big name players WANT to play in Spain (many have snubbed England and Italy this summer), and as Germany has shown, the compact medieval cities with central squares (plaza mayor, anyone?) really lended themselves to the fanfests.

England has amazing facilities, is the home of the sport, and is much cheaper today than it has been for foreigners, but it's also filled with (as other europeans call them) arrogant fans and many Europeans have similarly negative attitudes towards the English as they do towards Americans. = not this time, wait for the next euro bid.

Belgium and the Netherlands is the dark horse. They're very compact countries with amazingly beautiful cities and plenty of great facilities (combined), even if the total numbers would be much lower than if Spain or England hosted. Might I add that the atmosphere the home fans create sets the tone for the tournament and not much can beat the Dutch on that.

Russia just wont happen. As for 2022, the US is in with a chance (mainly due to the bottom line), but my money is shakily on Australia. They have some very large stadiums for a nation of 20 million spread out over the same space as the lower 48 and are well known for the rabid passion for all things sports. Personally, Australia's visit to the last World Cup made them burst on to the world scene and move into Asia as powerhouses, but hosting the Cup would, within 3 cycles make them world powers.

Plus, i'd get to go back for all the fun and see my family....

Posted by: TassieTiger | July 28, 2009 9:57 PM | Report abuse

re: Thing you could do is take off from the middle of December through the end of January, and then play a winter tournament in warm-weather sites in Feb and early March...much like the Argentines do in January in summer vacation spots like Mar del Plata...

Posted by: targetmedia

A long mid-season break will not play with US audiences, and would marginalize the sport even more than it is in the media. In the US, sprts have continuous regular seasons plus playoffs.

A midwinter tourney in warm weather cities sounds nice, but MLS has its worst attendance problems in the deep south. Both Florida franchises failed. There are no teams in GA or the Carolinas. Dallas can't draw flies to Pizza Hut Park. LA is a bit better, but you can't have all the games in LA. So a midwinter MLS tourney would be a bust at the gate and bad TV with all the empty seats. Plus, if you are taking off from December through early March, are you really playing a Fall thru Spring season? Not really. One other side note, even as far south as Washington March has lousy weather for soccer. The MLS calendar is going to have to stay the way it is.

Posted by: Ron16 | July 29, 2009 6:53 AM | Report abuse

Sucks to lose to Mexico 5-0. We gotta get 'em back in Azteca!

Posted by: WorldCup | July 29, 2009 9:53 AM | Report abuse

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A long mid-season break will not play with US audiences, and would marginalize the sport even more than it is in the media.
-------

We don't know what a winter mid-season break would do for MLS in the future (if MLS opts to go with such a schedule). I can't imagine it will have the "negative" impacts you expect.


-------
In the US, sprts have continuous regular seasons plus playoffs.
-------

And MLS needs to focus on what works best for them as a soccer league. That's Fifa's interest in running the global game. With time, MLS will have to get out of the way of Fifa's summer events and if that means some more cold weather games (and the possibility of a long mid-season winter break), then that's what will eventually happen. I'm confident the league can succeed as a business with a non April-Nov schedule, and I'm confident MLS fans will stay with the league as it grows and improves (and perhaps alters its schedule a bit).

I think people (and soccer fans specifically in the US/Canada) can grasp and appreciate the Concacaf (or UEFA) Champions League format (that features a long winter break in the middle of the competition) -- so I'm guessing MLS would be ok with perhaps doing something similar in the future.

Posted by: tab5g1 | July 29, 2009 9:53 AM | Report abuse

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