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Former President Clinton on U.S. soccer: Count me in for the next round!

By Liz Clarke
As honorary chairman of the committee that's working to bring the World Cup back to the United States in 2018 or 2022, former President Bill Clinton had planned for some time to attend Wednesday's final first-round match between the U.S. squad and Algeria in Pretoria.

But after nearly losing his voice cheering the Americans throughout the nail-biter, in which Landon Donovan's goal in the 91st minute sealed the squad's advance to the Round of 16, Clinton rearranged his travel schedule late Wednesday night so he'll be able to attend Saturday's match against Ghana in Rustenburg, as well

Clinton has become something of a star-struck fan after watching Wednesday's overtime thriller from a suite with FIFA President Sepp Blatter . He went to the U.S. team locker room afterward to tell the players how proud they had made their county and ended up staying more than an hour, he revealed Thursday, after they asked him to hang out and have a beer.


Clinton's visit to the 2010 World Cup dovetails with the work of the Clinton Foundation, which is involved in initiatives to treat HIV/AIDS and malaria in southern Africa and create sustainable economic development on the continent.

Thursday morning Clinton attended a reception for FIFA members, where he made a case for returning the World Cup to the United States. Afterward he met with a small group of American journalists and spoke at length about the sport, his view of its significance in an increasingly interdependent world and how he feels the World Cup and the United States could each benefit from the tournament's return to the country.

Given the United States' breadth, diversity and existing infrastructure, Clinton argued, the nation offers an ideal setting for the world's biggest sporting event.

"One of the great things about having this in America is, we already have a network of stadiums we can host it in," Clinton said. "And almost no matter where we site the matches, virtually any team that comes can have its own hometown cheering squad."

Moreover, Clinton characterized soccer as a potential tool of diplomacy and understanding--a constructive, entertaining and "safe" means of working out some of the conflicts that invariably arise among nations and disparate cultures.

"I think the big issue everywhere in the world today is: There are some forces bringing us together and some forces tearing us apart," said Clinton, 63. "And you want the ones that are bringing us together to triumph over the ones that are tearing us apart."

Clinton said that his first exposure to soccer came when he moved to England as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford in 1968. He was president in 1994 when the United States hosted the World Cup for the first time and set attendance records that will likely never be broken (averaging 68,991 fans per game).

New York, Los Angles and Washington are among as many as 18 U.S. cities that would host World Cup matches under the committee's bid proposal.

According to insiders, FIFA officials are leaning toward awarding the 2018 World Cup to a European country, given that by that point it will have been 12 years since the tournament was held on the continent. Germany hosted the 2006 World Cup; Brazil has been chosen as host in 2014. That means the United States' best bet is 2022, although the current bid is a pitch to host either year.

FIFA officials are expected to announce hosts of both the 2018 and 2022 World Cups on Dec. 2.

By Liz Clarke  |  June 24, 2010; 7:57 AM ET
Categories:  2010 World Cup , Africa , FIFA , South Africa , U.S. men's national team  | Tags: 2010 World Cup, 2018/2022 U.S. World Cup bid, Bill Clinton, U.S. national team  
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Next: Landon Donovan scores for U.S. soccer, chaos ensues


USA!!! USA!!! USA!!! USA!!!

Posted by: 9Nine9 | June 24, 2010 8:08 AM | Report abuse

I wonder if Bill was hitting on Harkes' wife?

Posted by: 9Nine9 | June 24, 2010 8:12 AM | Report abuse

I dig Bill Clinton

Posted by: OWNTF | June 24, 2010 8:18 AM | Report abuse

And I thought Obama was going to join us in Africa if we made the playoffs?

Posted by: Reignking | June 24, 2010 8:22 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the article

check out the nice photos and video of Bill Clinton from yesterday at the World Cup

Posted by: duganal | June 24, 2010 8:29 AM | Report abuse

Both Leno and Letterman had the game in their opening highlights...and made fun of the bad refs. One had Iraqi president Ahmadinejad as the linesman flagging Dempsey offside. Craig Ferguson and Chef Jose Andres toasted Landon Donovan with watermelon smoothies at the end of the Late, Late Show. Craiggie was wearing a USA jersey while Andres had his for Spain. A very cool night all around!

Posted by: soccerman | June 24, 2010 9:09 AM | Report abuse

So, Liz...can you find out if a visit to Ghana is on Clinton's itinerary??

Posted by: BaltoFan | June 24, 2010 9:13 AM | Report abuse

I just want either of those two World Cups. I also hope to attend either the 14 or 18. I probably be working on my dissertation -or just completing it by 14 -so I don't know if I will have the funds.

In regards to who starts on Saturday: I would like to see Alitdore - Buddle combo. Keepy Edu. We need his athleticism to break up Ghana counters. I am leaning towards keeping Bornstein because pace is going to be important.

Posted by: grubbsbl | June 24, 2010 9:14 AM | Report abuse

"One had Iraqi president Ahmadinejad as the linesman..."

Iranian not Iraqi.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | June 24, 2010 9:21 AM | Report abuse

Reignking - Obama was planning to attend, but security concerns are keeping him away. That's just what I heard, no politics here.

Best of the late night lines from Jon Stewart "If we win the world cup, the whole world has to call it soccer"

Posted by: harkes4ever | June 24, 2010 9:28 AM | Report abuse

"Clinton has become something of a star-struck fan after watching Wednesday's overtime thriller"

Ehem, 'injury' or 'stoppage' time please, Liz!

OK, I'll shut up now :-)

Posted by: Kev29 | June 24, 2010 9:28 AM | Report abuse

Craiggie was wearing a USA jersey...

Posted by: soccerman | June 24, 2010 9:09 AM

One of the many Scots round the world wearing US shirts this month.

Posted by: Kev29 | June 24, 2010 9:31 AM | Report abuse

Not to be too pedantic but, technically the match was not an "overtime thriller". The goal came in added time, not overtime, not extra time. Those terms have specific meanings in the sport. Extra time or "overtime" is used as the first tiebreaker in a drawn match in the knockout rounds. There is no overtime in a regular match.

Posted by: fedssocr | June 24, 2010 9:50 AM | Report abuse

@ I-270Exit1 - Thanks, dang it. I was so intent on spelling the name right I missed the country!

Posted by: soccerman | June 24, 2010 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Um, so? North America hasn't held a world cup since 1994. Are the Europeans so terrified of poor performance in the world cup that FIFA pulls a "one for you, one for me" act.

Posted by: UnitedDemon | June 24, 2010 10:11 AM | Report abuse

I'm proud of my county too. God Bless Loudoun County!

Posted by: GeneWells | June 24, 2010 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Craiggie was wearing a USA jersey...

Posted by:

One of the many Scots round the world wearing US shirts this month.


Craiggie was naturalized as a US citizen last year. But he's not exactly a sports fan - in his opening monologue last night he said that between Wimbledon and the World Cup he had a couple weeks full of things not to care about.

Posted by: zimbar | June 24, 2010 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Hopefully no English fans got in the locker room after the game and told Bill Clinton that they thought "Landon would look good in Chelsea".

Posted by: csd1 | June 24, 2010 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Wimbledon needs vuvuzelas.

Posted by: OWNTF | June 24, 2010 11:19 AM | Report abuse

I heard Clinton was asking where the cheerleaders were.

Posted by: fcrapidan | June 24, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Dr. Henry Kissinger recognized the diplomatic appeal of international soccer during his years as Secretary of State.

He used to have German Bundesliga scores delivered to his desk on Monday mornings. He said that you could tell a lot about a country by how they played soccer. He was also friends with Gianni Agnelli of Juventus. Actually, so was George Bush who met with Juventus players when they played a friendly in DC in 1983.

Dr. Kissinger is also a part of the US Bid committee for 2018 and 2022.

Posted by: DonStefano | June 24, 2010 4:57 PM | Report abuse

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