New home for 2022 World Cup should be obvious

The FBI took down FIFA, the US Men’s team shocked the Netherlands in an international friendly and US Women’s team landed in Canada for the 2015 World Cup. It’s been a good week for soccer in the United States. It could get even better than that too if the FBI finds that the bid allocations that FIFA gave for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups were under the circumstances of a bribe or payoff. That would likely mean that both of the World Cups would be reallocated. 

Russia_2018_World_CupWhere exactly the tournaments would be reassigned is still up for debate. A reasonable case can be made for England hosting the 2018 edition because the preparation required is minimal. Sure scheduling might take a little while but the reality is that England is the soccer hub of the world at the domestic level. Britain has 12 stadiums that have a seating capacity of at least 38,000. It also has the historic Wembley Stadium, which would be an excellent site for a World Cup final if you ask me and seats 90,000 fans. The seating capacity is pretty comparable to what Brazil had last summer as well. On top of all of that, England hasn’t hosted a World Cup since 1966.

The reassigning of the 2022 edition is a little trickier. There were several nations that were in the mix and shockingly Qatar was selected. Beyond any tampering that might have gone on with the voting, Qatar shouldn’t be hosting the World Cup anyway. Summer temperatures can reach a startling 120 degrees Fahrenheit and in preparations for the tournament roughly 1,200 migrant workers have died. That number is sure to climb higher as well as we are seven years away from kickoff.

So it makes only too much sense to change the site of the 2022 World Cup. The question that remains is where would it be moved to. The logical answer here would be the nation that finished second in the voting, which was the US.

World Cup StampOn a lot of different levels, a move to America makes sense. From a monetary standpoint, the US would be the best option. The 1994 tournament held in the United States still ranks as the most lucrative one in history. You have to wonder a bit why FIFA would avoid returning to the US in favor of Qatar. Sure, FIFA officials might have been bribed but America would have generated infinitely more revenue for FIFA than Qatar could ever dream of.

There are plenty of critics who claim that soccer is not a big deal in the United States. However, the 1994 World Cup remains the most heavily attended tournament ever. Over the course of all 52 games played that year, the USA brought in over 3.5 million fans. The US still has the highest attendance average as well at roughly 69,000 fans per game. For some reference, the average attendance of a World Cup match if you remove the numbers from the year the US hosted is around 43,250 and the average in Brazil last year was only 53,600.

Preparations for the US wouldn’t be overly difficult either. They have more than enough stadiums to compensate all of the games that need to be played. I went through and found the top 12 stadiums that America could use as host fields. The Citrus Bowl, the Rose Bowl, Ohio Stadium, Bank of America Stadium, Lincoln Financial Field, LP Field, Sanford Stadium, University of Phoenix Stadium, Sports Authority Field at Mile High, the Cotton Bowl, Arrowhead Stadium and Soldier Field would all work well for hosting the 64-game schedule.

1280px-The_U.S._Embassy_in_Pretoria_Glows_at_NightThat would bring World Cup matches all over the country and let everyone enjoy the action. Florida, California, Ohio, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Georgia, Arizona, Colorado, Texas, Missouri and Illinois would all have the opportunity to host a game. All of the fields use grass as the playing surface as well so there can be no complaints about the awful conditions of playing on FieldTurf. Travel might be slightly difficult but as long as there is as little coast-to-coast movement as possible, it should work out fine.

It also leaves a few options available for where the final could be played. It could once again return to the Rose Bowl, which is where it was played in 1994, or it could be hosted in Ohio Stadium, home of the Ohio State Buckeyes. What makes Ohio Stadium appealing is its capacity of 102,000 fans. The smallest stadium I selected was Soldier Field and that still has a capacity of 61,500. Based on the average attendance back in ’94, I don’t think there should be an issue with filling these stadiums.

At this point, it seems to be a matter of when not if regarding changes of location. FIFA is in turmoil right now and if the new brain trust that takes over has any hope of avoiding corruption being tagged to their name, they will start fresh. I might be a little bit biased in wanting the USA to be chosen as the 2022 host but the selection would make a ton of sense. It would be another step forward for the growth of soccer stateside. Hopefully, the US gets the chance to make it happen.

FIFA is falling apart

If you are having a bad day, just think about how FIFA’s day has gone. You wake up in your hotel in Switzerland room preparing for a big conference full of board elections and then the FBI comes crashing in to arrest 14 of your members. That’s how FIFA’s day started today.

Yup, the United States made it all the way to Zurich, Switzerland to arrest nine FIFA officials and an additional five board members on counts of corruption, conspiracy and racketeering. The issue calls into question the allocation of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups and business surrounding CONCACAF and CONMEBOL.

Of those arrested is FIFA Vice President Jeffrey Webb, which is definitely not a good sign for the organization. Surprisingly, Sepp Blatter’s name has yet to come up as one of those arrested.

Sepp_BlatterWith how easily athletes seem to get off today for breaking the law and such, you might think this will blow over soon. It doesn’t seem like it though, as US attorney general Loretta Lynch was quoted when speaking about the charges in a statement from the Department of Justice. She explained that the charges indicate “corruption that is rampant, systematic and deep rooted both abroad and here in the United States.”

She went on to add that “it spans at least two generations of soccer officials who, as alleged, have abused their positions of trust to acquire millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks.” How many millions you might ask? Lynch mentioned $110 million in bribes just surround the 2016 Copa America tournament.

So no, this is not just going to blow over. FIFA has a gun to its head at the moment and is definitely starting to sweat. Reportedly, already two corporations and four individual defendants have pled guilty and more are sure to come.

“Today’s announcement should send a message that enough is enough,” said Acting U.S. Attorney of the Eastern District of New York Kelly T. Currie.  “After decades of what the indictment alleges to be brazen corruption, organized international soccer needs a new start.” It seems like the US government is intent on reworking FIFA.

And Currie has a point. Sepp Blatter’s being up for election as President for the fifth consecutive time, FIFA’s treatment of Brazilian laws in the months leading up to the 2014 World Cup and the rumblings of corruption surrounding the next two World Cups dictate enough cause to start fresh.

World Cup StampAnd you can expect more from this too. Currie added at the end of her statement, “Let me be clear: this indictment is not the final chapter in our investigation.” That is a daunting prospect for FIFA. And the pressure isn’t just coming from the US either. Swiss officials were the ones that made the physical arrests in Zurich on behalf of the FBI. Following that, the Swiss Office of the Attorney General announced that it would conducting a separate investigation of the voting process for both the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

Two different countries investigating you for corruption. Yikes. Definitely not a good sign. But FIFA continues to go on as if nothing is wrong. FIFA’s Director of Communications and Public Affairs Walter de Gregorio held a press conference earlier today at which he announced FIFA’s plan to proceed with preparations for both World Cups. FIFA also issued a press release, which details the many ways that FIFA is cooperating and reiterated its excitement at energy surrounding the investigation.

The funny thing is that what FIFA has done in response only makes me hate them more. Rather than acknowledge that yeah, this is an issue, it is content to sit back and act as if nothing is wrong. FIFA doesn’t even react to say that it is surprised by the arrests and will do whatever it can to help. It includes a line that indicates that it feels the investigation is redundant. And what organization announces its excitement that it is being investigated for corruption?

The whole situation is insane. It was only a matter of time before FIFA fell. Foreign governments have been on their heels for years and the ugly side of FIFA continues to be revealed. Corruption is part of its DNA at this point. There is no denying it with the number of scandals that have broken into the news that involve one FIFA executive or another. This seems to be the day of reckoning for FIFA but will it be enough?

There is no doubt in my mind that FIFA needs a fresh start. The problem is that it needs to start with the replacement of Sepp Blatter, who is widely expected to win reelection. Here’s to hoping that the Department of Justice comes up with some damning evidence against him in the next 24 hours or that these new allegations are enough to taint Blatter’s name (because somehow it’s not tainted enough) to the point where he would lose the election. Unlikely, but one can dream. Just imagine what FIFA without Sepp Blatter could be. I think it needs to happen as soon as possible. Even if Blatter isn’t behind all of this, holding on to an old regime rampant with it is not a great way to begin moving forward.