Gulati discusses U.S. World Cup bid
With the FIFA inspection tour complete, U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati, head of the American bid to host the 2018 or '22 World Cup, addressed questions about the five-city stop and where things stand in pursuit of the sport's grand event. Some highlights:
On the possibility of dropping out of the running for 2018, amid clear indications that FIFA wants it in Europe: "We would certainly listen and have the appropriate conversations with the FIFA president and the UEFA president at the right time. We haven't been asked to withdraw, but I acknowledge, and we have really from the beginning, that there is a sentiment within a number of members [of the FIFA executive committee] that 2018 should be in Europe. If at some point, between now and Dec. 2 [when the hosts are named], we think it is in our best interests to do that, we would make that decision."
On the narrow width of NFL stadiums under consideration to stage matches: "We obviously knew that some of the NFL stadiums [including FedEx Field] aren't configured, as they exist now, for FIFA World Cup dimensions. In our submission to FIFA, we have guaranteed them that we can fit to that level; the stadiums have assured us of that. We did discuss it on this trip, but all of our venues can get to 75 yards (68 meters). What we also talked about was, in any case, if we thought it was prohibitive to do that for any reason, we've got 18 cities as part of our bid process. I don't think that is an issue. We have assured them that we will get to FIFA international dimensions and can do that in a cost-effective way, and if for any reason we can't, we have alternatives."
On George Mason University's facilities as a possible training site: "You saw a phenomenal facility: a world-class surface, a set of stands that can [provide] seclusion, almost perfect from what a national team would want around the World Cup."
For more, including China's role.....
On China's interest in 2026 impacting the 2022 race, which includes contenders Japan, South Korea, Australia and Qatar: "It is a decision for FIFA to consider all the long-term implications of their decisions. [Of note: If they choose an Asian bid for 2022, China would not be eligible in 2026.] Down the road, China has indicated that it would be interested in hosting a World Cup. How that plays into the decision FIFA may make for 2018 and 2022 remains to be seen, but I don't think anyone would doubt that China would make a great host in the future, especially after what they did with the Olympic Games and the growth and size of the economy."
On tour's importance: "They will write a report, addressing a number of issues -- pros, cons. They won't be saying we should go to country X or Y. That report will then go to the 24 people that are going to make this decision. How much it influences and affects those 24 people is probably on a case-by-case basis. Some will be strong supporters of a country regardless of what the report said, others will be certainly influenced. To what degree, I can't predict."
On public transportation moving visitors: "The typical experience around an NFL game where most or many people are driving, tailgating, whatever it might be, may or may not be what a World Cup audience looks like. We did talk about that [with the FIFA reps] -- either existing infrastructure like light rail, heavy rail, subway, and also what things can be put into place on a short-term basis, such as buses, like what is done at the Super Bowl, where so much parking is used for ancillary events. Any public-sector plan between now and 2018 or 2022, there are some of those plans in a couple of these cities to add light-rail transport. It was a view that was raised and discussed, and I think we had the appropriate answers to those questions."
On advantages/disadvantages of being a geographically large country: "The advantages are obvious: We have 18 cities that we have put forth as possible candidates. That gives us extraordinary flexibility. We have multiple stadiums that could reach the requirements for a World Cup final or for an opening game. Very few of the candidates can promise that. We have multiple cities that are capable of hosting things like the International Broadcast Center, FIFA Congress or a World Cup draw. Those are all positives. Clearly, the distances involved are different than they would be in some of the other candidates."
For official comments from the FIFA delegation, click here.
September 10, 2010; 11:35 AM ET
Categories: USA World Cup bid , USSF | Tags: U.S. World Cup bid
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