The Cup Running Over

December 3, 2010 8:29 AM

The US Lost to Qatar for One Simple Reason: We Didn't Deserve It

The awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar has produced real outrage in many American quarters, with some charging that the decision can only be explained by corruption. But the truth is that the USA lost its bid for the same reason that England lost its 2018 effort to Russia.

We didn't really deserve it.

First, neither victory is the upset that is being portrayed in the US press. Anyone who had followed the process closely knew that Russia was the favorite for 2018 and that in recent weeks, insiders were predicting that Qatar had eclipsed the USA bid. The USA pundits refused to believe it at their peril. (The estimable Nate Silver on December 1: "Bookies have Qatar favored to be named hosts of the 2022 World Cup. Really?")

Second, if you accept the FIFA Committee's rationales at face value (more on that later), one primary goal is to bring the Cup to new locales as far across the globe as possible. The USA hosted recently and returning so soon would have been virtually unprecedented. (Mexico hosted twice within 16 years but only after the Cup was moved from the original choice, Colombia.)

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Welcome to Qatar

Once you've made the decision that you're going to try to go everywhere, the Middle East is too big a region to ignore. Yes, we wouldn't have voted for it on a number of grounds, including weather. But if you're committed to serving every region, then you're probably never going to get a better chance than a bid that promises to air condition every venue, pour $50 billion plus into the Cup, take down the stadiums after the proceedings and give them to poorer nations, and has the coaches of Barcelona and Manchester United in its corner, not to mention Zinedine Zidane.

There was another problem with our bid. Beyond offering our usual advantages, the USA talked a lot about how this Cup would provide the spark to make soccer a major sport in this country. The problem with that line of reasoning? It isn't true.

On a day in which half the sporting world stopped to watch the proceedings in Zurich, Americans were mesmerized by Le Bron's return to Cleveland. To us, the World Cup is a footnote. Fair enough, but the truth is that all things being equal, FIFA likes to give the event to places where it is appreciated. Anyone who has visited the Mideast recently has surely noticed all the signs and talk on the street -- from Amman to Dubai. They really wanted it. We didn't.

Was corruption involved? Maybe, though the news about FIFA's possible malfeasance isn't any newer today than it was a week ago. We knew what FIFA was like when we entered the process. The truth is that we may still be a world power in the political sphere but in the soccer universe, we're not even second rate. To quote the immortal Bill Parcells, you are what you are. Get over it.

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