Monday, February 12, 2007

World Cup U.S.A 15 years away? The AP is reporting that the British government will strongly back a bid to make England the host of the 2018 tournament. Right now, South Africa is the designated host of the 2010 tournament, though rumors continue to persist that FIFA is expected to find that the organizers cannot get the job done in time. Assuming that the South Africa holds on to the Cup, the next two cups seem to be set, Brazil is virtually guaranteed to be awarded the 2014 tournament. FIFA seems to be bent on holding the 2018 tournament in Europe. If England wants the tournament, it will surely get the nod.

That leaves either the 2022 or 2026 World Cup for the North American CONCACAF region. The closeness in time of the Brazil bid might cause FIFA to look first to Asia for the 2022 affair, but there has been an Asia-based tournament more recently than one in North America. So, it really will come down to this: Mexico, the United States or Canada. Mexico has hosted twice already, and does not have the financial wherewithal to be as attractive a choice as the U.S.A. Canada might be an interesting novelty choice, but doesn't have the fan base, or the stadium facilities that the U.S. possesses. In fact, no country is as attractive a destination. So, we can expect the World Cup to return here in relatively short order. I predict 2022.

The 2018 tournament in London would be a soccer fan's delight...and possibly a boon to the football fortunes of some F.A. clubs that currently lack the resources to compete with the big clubs in London. Manchester and Liverpool. With London hosting the 2012 Olympics, England is expected to have significant world-class facilities in place. That doesn't translate into having the football and related support facilities around the country -- but, a World Cup finals would do just that.

Right now, there are two stadiums in Manchester, Villa Park in Birmingham, Newcastle's St. James Park, the renovated Wembley Stadium, and spanking-new Emirates Stadium in London, that would meet FIFA's minimum requirements. There are plans to expand the capacity of Chelsea's Stamford Bridge, but rumors still persist that team owner Roman Abramovich plans on a new, much larger stadium to more closely match revenues to the largest payroll in international football. Surely, the stadium promised by Liverpool's new American owners will also be included in the bid. If England does get the bid, no doubt several other cities will get upgraded facilities...perhaps Sheffield or Leeds in the North, a Midlands city such as Leicester or Coventry, an eastern city such as Hull or Middlesbrough. In the Southeast, Bristol seems like an ideal choice, though they lack a strong football side.

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