As the soccer community prepares for a USA-England friendly today at Wembley Stadium, word comes out that the United States may be prepared to bid for the 2018 World Cup finals.
England travel to Trinidad tomorrow before Sunday's friendly. The primary motivation behind the trip is to get on FIFA vice-president Jack Warner's good side and back the FA's (England's Football Association) World Cup bid.
Warner is also president of the North, Central American and Caribbean Confederation (CONCACAF). Warner has long indicated that he would prefer to see the tournament held in his region, and confirmation that the US is preparing its own bid to host the finals appears to damage the FA's prospects.
"We will be making a decision in the next two or three months, but we are looking very seriously at (making a bid)," said US Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati yesterday.
"I can't think of any reasons why we wouldn't bid for the tournament. We've done this before (1994) and been successful at doing it before. The bid process has become very competitive and whether playing a game in Trinidad has anything to do with that I am not sure. But I think the FA are more sophisticated than to think they are going to get Jack Warner's vote on the back of playing one game. There aren't any CONCACAF bidders at this point, and Mr Warner is the president of CONCACAF."
Only last year Warner described England as "an irritant" in an interview conducted with the BBC's World Service and said he'd "fight" moves to bring the competition to England for the first time since 1966. "Nobody in Europe likes England," he said.
He was more conciliatory in interviews earlier this year, but his long-standing belief that the 2018 tournament should be held in the CONCACAF region would suggest he will side with any bid mounted by the US.
While Major League Soccer (MLS) is just coming to prominence, the United States clearly boasts the infrastructure to host the finals with Gulati confident all rival bids from Europe can be deflected. "Clearly England will have a very strong bid, Spain and Germany would be formidable candidates," he said. "But we are going to focus on the quality in the US. There is no country in the world in a better position in terms of stadium facilities and size than us.
"We have got 50 stadia of 70,000 capacities capable of hosting the World Cup. We could have hosted the competition in 1998 in stadiums that didn't even exist in 1994, and the same goes for 2002 and not use any stadiums that existed in 1998.
"We are determined to finish what we started in 1994. We are the most diversified nation in the world. If Nigeria and Ghana played each other, it would sell out. If Australia played Costa Rica, it would sell out. When we staged a third-place play off between Sweden and Bulgaria in 1994 there were 85,000 people there. My point is that it is not a question of fearing any country. We think we'd have a great bid, great structure and a great landscape."
Gulati also hinted at the intriguing possibility that the Community Shield, the traditional curtain-raiser to the new Premier League season, could be held in the US in the future. Such a plan would reopen the furious debate over the Premier League's controversial scheme to play a 39th league match abroad, though it remains a possibility attractive to the American game.
"We hosted the Italian equivalent of the Community Shield in the mid-1990s," added Gulati. "It would be very different to holding a Premier League game, but we would consider it and be open to the idea."MY POV: Interesting comments by Gulati. Looks like the USA is very adamant that they (we?) have the infrastructure, the manpower and the money to host the '18 tournament.
As an American, I'd love to see the World Cup in my backyard. Certainly, Gulati is spot on when it comes to comments regarding the stadia and the fact about our diversity.
Speaking of the Community Shield, it was announced today that the Italian Supercoppa between Roma and Inter Milan will be played at Giants Stadium this August. The game was played at Giants Stadium in 2003.
Still, one must think England will be strong competitors for the finals. What do you think? Who would you like to see hosting the 2018 finals?