Gulati: US hasn’t been asked to be fill-in host
CHICAGO (AP) — The United States has not been approached about hosting the 2014 or 2022 World Cups should security or weather concerns force either to be moved.
After widespread protests marred last month’s Confederations Cup, FIFA president Sepp Blatter said additional unrest during next summer’s World Cup could mean that Brazil was the wrong choice for host. FIFA also has had concerns about the pace of construction, fearing that some stadiums won’t be ready in time for the tournament.
But U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati said Sunday he has no doubts next summer’s tournament will go on as planned.
“Brazil’s going to host the World Cup,” he said, speaking to reporters a few hours before the Americans played Panama in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final.
Gulati, who recently won a seat on FIFA’s powerful Executive Committee, also said he expects the group will be asked in October to consider shifting the World Cup in Qatar to the winter months to avoid that country’s searing summer heat.
“I’ve got multiple perspectives on it,” Gulati said. “How I end up viewing what happens depends on the items in front of us.”
Despite health concerns included in an official report before the vote, the executive committee chose the tiny emirate over the United States in a 2010 vote. The Qataris promised they could stage the event during the traditional timeframe, saying air conditioned stadiums would protect players, spectators and officials from temperatures that can reach 50 degrees Celsius (120 Fahrenheit) in the summer. But Blatter and other FIFA officials now say the tournament should be moved, citing concerns for activity outside the stadiums.
Some have suggested FIFA should vote again on the 2022 host, though that is unlikely to happen. But the process will have to be much clearer if the United States bids for the tournament again, Gulati said.
“The process needs to be far more transparent as far as what matters. What’s OK. What’s within the rules and what’s not,” he said. “In my view, if you’re going to have a technical part of the bid, the technical part should be given some weight. If you’re going to send people around and do an analysis of stadiums and conditions and government commitments and all of that, then that should have a significant role in final bid process.
“If it’s only about going to new frontiers, OK. But let’s know that going in,” Gulati added. “If it’s about maximizing revenue, let’s know that going in. Whatever. I think that needs to be far more clear.”
In other topics, Gulati said:
— The United States and CONCACAF are still interested in playing in the 2016 Copa America, South America’s continental championship, but it’s “absolutely mandatory” that the tournament be included in the international calendar so all participants would have access to their best players. Club teams are not required to release their players for games that fall outside international fixture dates.
— He is considering running for a third term. “Things are going well,” he said. “Right now I’d be inclined to do so.”
— FIFA’s attempts at reform, including discussions on term limits and compensation disclosures, remain a work in progress. “My grade for it is good progress, but still incomplete,” he said.
— He does not think a team from CONCACAF, the region of North and Central America and the Caribbean, will be seeded for the 2014 World Cup.
— He is pleased with the launch of the National Women’s Soccer League, but there is far more work to be done. “The reviews are mixed. Attendance in some markets has been great, beyond expectations. In some markets, it’s lower,” he said. “To me, the best thing about it is we got it started. ... Am I pleased with where it is? No. But I’m pleased we got it started and hope it will get a lot better.”
— He remains enthusiastic about football’s continued growth in the United States, pointing to rising attendance figures, media rights and engagement of both the general population and football fans. “All the trend lines are way positive and we’re looking forward to the next quarter century,” Gulati said. “So I’m very positive about it.”