It is almost December. On December 2nd, the world will wait in anticipation for the answer to FIFA's biggest question at the moment.
Who will host the FIFA World Cup in 2018 and 2022?
Nine bids from 11 nations are currently being reviewed by FIFA's Executive Committee, with a decision expected on the second of the month.
The decision comes after a fantastic World Cup earlier this year, during which South Africa proved to be a very pleasant and successful host, despite the fact that the nation's team was the first host to not advance out of the Group Stage.
Currently, soccer-crazy Brazil is preparing to host the 2014 tournament,as well as the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup, a tournament awarded along with the World Cup.
Five bidding nations: England (1966), South Korea (2002), Japan (2002), the United States (1994) and Spain (1982), are looking to join Italy (1934, 1990), France (1938, 1998), Mexico (1970, 1986), Germany (1974 as West Germany, 2006) and Brazil (1950, 2014), as the only nations to host the tournament twice. Japan and South Korea hosted together in 2002. Spain has placed a bid combined with neighbor Portugal who, along with Qatar, Australia, Russia, Belgium and the Netherlands (bidding together), are looking to host the tournament for the first time.
The European bids: England, Russia, Spain/Portugal and Belgium/Netherlands, are all solely for 2018.
Qatar and South Korea both applied only for 2022.
The United States, Japan and Australia had all applied to bid for both 2018 and 2022, but all have now formally declared intentions to bid only for the 2022 tournament.
All the European nations had applied for both 2018 and 2022, but since a European nation is now guaranteed the 2018 World Cup, FIFA rules disallow any European nation from being awarded 2022.
The United States was the last nation to do this and the decision has been met with both cheers and jeers.
Yes, it is unfortunate that Americans will now have to wait eleven years (since 2010 is now drawing to a close), at the earliest, for another World Cup to come to the States. Especially, since soccer is the fastest growing sport in our country. However, this was a very intelligent move by the United States Soccer Federation and the Bid Committee.
There is one primary reason why the decision should be seen as smart for our World Cup dreams: Europe.
Europe is the center of the soccer world. UEFA is the strongest of the six confederations. The strongest club teams (ex. Manchester United, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Milan, Bayern Munich, Inter, Arsenal, Chelsea, Juventus, etc.) are from Europe. It is the soccer capital of the world.
Until this week, the United States was the only non-European 2018 bid. Against Russia, England, Spain/Portugal and Belgium/Netherlands, it would be a difficult fight.
Not only that, but statistics and history cannot be ignored.
If Europe were to be denied in its bid for the World Cup in 2018, then the continent would match its longest stretch without the tournament.
The only time Europe has ever gone twelve years without a World Cup, was following the 1938 World Cup in France. Of course, in 1939, Europe became engulfed in World War II, which canceled both the 1942 and 1946 World Cups. After that, Brazil was given the 1950 tournament.
With South Africa 2010 and Brazil 2014, Europe is dealing with its longest hiatus since the war. The continent has hosted every other World Cup since 1958 and hosted consecutive Cups twice: 1934 (Italy), 1938 (France), 1954 (Switzerland) and 1958 (Sweden). Of course, the rules prevent them from hosting twice in a row, but this is the first time that FIFA has rejected European bids in favor of an American (North or South America) bid. It usually alternates between a European and American country, but Asia's victory in 2002 and Africa's in 2010 have changed things. The world is now literally consumed with this tournament. No longer does it change exclusively between Europe and South America.
Given this information, it makes plenty of sense that Sunil Gulati and company withdrew from 2018.
This gesture also could have political motives, as they are essentially endorsing Europe for 2018. This gesture could earn them points with the European figures, who have a say in the process for the 2022 bid. However, the same argument can be made for Japan and Australia.
If I were a betting man, I would have to say that the United States is surely the favorite for 2022, with Australia as runner-up. The rise in popularity in soccer in America, the quality of our state of the art stadiums, with Cowboys Stadium and the New Meadowlands Stadium leading the list and the ability to cater to a swarm of millions of travelers gathered for such an event, the United States definitely has the competitive edge. Also, if we were again to go to history and patterns, it will have been 28 years between the 1994 and 2022 United States World Cups.
Apart from that, looking at the hosts of the World Cup since 2002, we will see that they were South Korea/Japan (AFC), Germany (UEFA), South Africa (CAF), Brazil (CONMEBOL) and another UEFA nation. The last time a CONCACAF nation hosted was 1994 in the United States. The only other confederation to not host in this time is the OFC (Oceania), who we can virtually eliminate from any talk of hosting the tournament. If we were being logical, it is also fair that the United States, and by extension CONCACAF, get the chance to once again host the tournament. They have done a great job in their three times as host (Mexico '70 and '86 and the US '94) and deserve a fourth opportunity.
The fight for 2018 was a lost cause. It has been known for some time among intellectuals, that the United States and all other non-European nations stood no chance of winning the 2018 bid. Right now, I would have to say that England is going to win the bid. Otherwise, Russia is going to get the surprise victory.
As for our only 2022 bid, there is no need for concern. We stand a much better chance.
South Korea and Japan did a great job, but can they host on their own?
I would question Qatar's ability to operate the tournament on their own, as well. There is too much work that would have to be done. They would need to renovate or build all new stadiums. Along with that, they would have to take into consideration their 100-plus degree weather in the summer, for which they have proposed technology to cool the stadiums. Another proposal has been playing the games indoors. This is interesting, but also very out of the ordinary. Unlike the US bid which only has one entirely indoor stadium (the Georgia Dome), this would be all stadiums. It would make things very different for the players and could potentially take away from the World Cup atmosphere.
Australia is the biggest threat. However, their lack of high quality, high capacity stadiums like those of the American bid make it less likely that they would be picked over the United States.
When all is said and done, this was a great move by the United States and should pave the way for England and the United States to be celebrating on December 2nd, as 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosts.