February 2010

U.S. versus Qatar: The Battle for 2022

Steve Martin once did a bit on Saturday Night Live where his single Christmas wish was world peace. When he considered additional wishes, world peace withered in importance. He added money, power and a 31-day orgasm.

FIFA is like that when it looks to decide where World Cups should be played. Putting aside those images of hooligans, riots and leg-breaking fouls, FIFA likes to portray itself as an ambassador of peace. But when it comes to choosing a World Cup host, world peace withers in importance compared to other factors.

We now know that Europe is going to host in 2018. Also we know that since Europe is going to host in 2018, Europe will not be in the running to host in 2022.

Removing those folks from contention for 2022 leaves the U.S. competing against countries in South America, Asia, and Oceana.

South American nations will fall out because the World Cup will be hosted in Brazil in 2014. East Asian nations will get a polite No Thank You because it was hosted by Japan and South Korea just eight years ago. Australia and Indonesia will get a Good Luck Next Time because of the impact of television.

And television is FIFA’s 31-day orgasm.

Just like what happened during the 2002 World Cup, potential games in Australia or Indonesia would be played when it is early morning in Europe. Hans and Franz have been known to meet their mates at the pub to watch games that involve their teams at that time of day. But, they’ll stay in bed during matches involving non-European teams. That discourages advertisers and impacts television revenue for FIFA.

With strong TV revenues and serious ticket sales, the most profitable World Cup in history was in 1994 even though it had eight fewer teams than the modern set-up. We have had France 1998, Asia 2002, and Germany 2006, but none was as successful as U.S.A. 1994.

In my estimation, that leaves the competition to host the 2022 World Cup between us and… Qatar. No kidding. Qatar, the country Google Maps just added last week.

Qatar will cause some headaches for television revenue, but just minor headaches. It’s in the Asian confederation, but it’s more of a Middle East country. Its location is close enough to Europe to prevent awful television timing while far enough from some notorious neighbours. (That’s a British spelling because we will need their support).

Choosing Qatar allows FIFA to take the tournament where it can have a huge impact. FIFA likes to grow the game in new areas, say, for instance the U.S. and South Africa.

But the U.S. has two big factors Qatar doesn’t: security and available stadiums. Both will be big deals in light of the questions and problems in South Africa. When FIFA toured South Africa last year, four stadiums were no more than Hollywood facades held up by two-by-fours.

Then there is one more reason to feel confident. Since a CONCACAF nation last hosted the World Cup, every other confederation has hosted it or will have hosted by 2022, except Oceana. In the case of Europe, it will have hosted three times since CONCACAF hosted.

And it so happens that the U.S. is the only CONCACAF nation in the running for 2022. So, we can expect other CONCACAF nations to get behind us because they all prefer playing games on their home continent.

Of course, everything stated above assumes that FIFA doesn’t get bought off by Saudi Arabia to make up for the television revenue. As we know, FIFA expects to make a whole lot of money from the World Cup.

And don’t forget, FIFA also wants world peace.

Jamie Clary is the author of The First American Soccer Trivia Book which can be purchased here. He can be reached via Twitter at @soccerprofessor.

Jamie Clary

  • This article makes a lot of sense actually, and to be honest, I don’t see how FIFA can’t give us the WC in 2022. We have the best facilities in the world, the largest seating capacities to blow the 94 WC attendance out of the water, and the great cities that will thrive in the atmosphere. A 2022 USA WC would be a truly amazing thing to see, because our national team has had leaps and bounds lately and we have built even more impressive stadiums that could all host WC finals matches (Cowboys Stadium, new Meadowlands Stadium, Univ of Phoenix Stadium etc.)