Can one event really change a country’s national landscape? Well, the World Cup certainly can.
16 years ago, the 1994 World Cup forever changed American soccer. That year, the tournament was held in the United States, and recorded the highest ticket sales in World Cup history. More importantly though, the tournament gave the United States a much needed boost to start its own soccer league, Major League Soccer (MLS).
Although the MLS is nothing like the Premier League, the league has seen substantial growth over the years.
MLS attendance is at its highest level in years and is developing top-notch talent, such as Landon Donovan and Juan Pablo Angel.
In addition, the league is getting more exposure on national television, thanks to an agreement with MLS and ABC/ESPN and a record amount of sponsorships, with companies such as McDonald's, Nike, and Visa.
All signs indicate that the sport will continue to grow in the states for years to come.
The United States has over twenty four million registered soccer players, more than any country in the world and the highest amount of youth worldwide playing soccer (over four million). As these youth get older, they will become the new generation of soccer fans, thus creating excitement and buzz for the sport.
In addition, the United States is a melting pot of the soccer loving world. Out of the 31 countries (besides the United States) competing in the World Cup, 13 of them have over one million descendants living in the United States.
Also by 2030, close to 30 percent of the American population will be Hispanic. The Hispanic population has always embraced soccer, and will be the catalyst to spur its growth.
In other words, every team is a home team when it plays in the United States. This is precisely why the United States deserves the rights to the 2018 or 2022 World Cup.
A U.S. World Cup would be a celebration of world culture, and be the impetus to close the gap between American and European soccer.
Currently, nine countries are bidding for the rights for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups: US, England, Russia, Netherlands-Belgium, Spain-Portugal, Australia, Qatar(2022 only), Japan (2022 only), and South Korea (2022 only).
It seems likely that FIFA will award one of these two World Cups to Europe. Soccer has its biggest following in Europe, and the continent has not hosted the World Cup since Germany in 2006 (the 2014 World Cup has already been awarded to Rio de Janeiro).
My best guess is that England will win the rights for the 2018 cup. The country has not hosted the tournament since 1966 and already has a stable infrastructure and some of the world’s most passionate soccer fans. England just seems like the obvious choice for 2018.
If England wins the rights for 2018, it opens the door for the United States to win the 2022 Cup. Most likely, the European bids will get thrown out for the 2022 World Cup if the tournament goes to England in 2018.
Out of the countries that remain: Australia, US, Qatar, Japan, and South Korea, the United States is the only one to have what FIFA is looking for. FIFA has used the 2010 and 2014 World Cups to elevate the platform of soccer throughout the world, and the United States has the most to gain from the games.
Recently, ESPN bought the English speaking American rights for the 2010 and 2014 World Cups for $100 million. By comparison, Univision bought the Spanish speaking American rights for a whopping $325 million.
This figure shows the potential soccer has in the United States. If the country’s passion for soccer grows at the same rate for the next eight years and the country is awarded the 2022 World Cup, FIFA is looking at a large pay-day from American broadcast television for the US rights. Some projections predict the rights could triple to close to $300 million.
The 2022 World Cup would also be a safe bet for FIFA.
Recently, the host countries have struggled to produce an event of this proportion and sell enough tickets.
If the US is awarded the cup, the country would use all existing stadiums and should sell over five million tickets, the most in World Cup history. The 1994 tournament was one of the most financially successful in history, and this experience will only benefit a US tournament.
As the US Soccer Federation says, “Game Is In US ”; the whole country is part of the 2022 World Cup Bid.
Awarding a World Cup to the United States not only makes financial sense for FIFA, but will reward soccer fans throughout the world for their passion of the game. That’s why I think the United States is the front runner to land the 2022 tournament.