US Soccer chief says no future World Cup bid ‘unless the rules of the game are changed’

The president of the USA football federation (US Soccer), Sunil Gulati, says the nation will not likely make a bid for the 2026 World Cup unless a murky process is made more transparent.
US Soccer president Sunil Gulati, right, shown with former US president Bill Clinton at the announcement of the 2022 World Cup host country on December 2, 2010 in Zurich, Switzerland. Steffen Schmidt / Keystone / AP
US Soccer president Sunil Gulati, right, shown with former US president Bill Clinton at the announcement of the 2022 World Cup host country on December 2, 2010 in Zurich, Switzerland. Steffen Schmidt / Keystone / AP

The United States would consider bidding for the 2026 World Cup only if Fifa makes some changes to the bidding process, US Soccer president Sunil Gulati said Wednesday.

Gulati, who is also a member of the Fifa Executive Committee, participated in a panel discussion along with Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber as part of the Leaders in Sport conference in New York City.

After discussing the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, he was asked if the United States would bid for 2026.

“The answer is maybe,” Gulati said. “Maybe we’ll bid ... we’re not going to bid unless the rules of the game are changed.”

Gulati said he believed Fifa needed to modify several aspects of the bidding procedure.

He believes the technical reports submitted by bidding countries “need to mean more” and also that, in his opinion, “there should be public disclosure of votes”.

Fifa have come under attack since awarding the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 edition to Qatar, both of which led to widespread allegations of sleaze in the bidding process.

There was a particularly bitter reaction to the process in England, the birthplace of modern-day football, after the country’s bid to stage the 2018 finals garnered a mere two votes and was eliminated in the first ballot.

The United States were, in their turn, disappointed not to win the 2022 edition.

Qatar’s victory in the race for 2022 came despite a Fifa technical report which warned of the dangers of staging the tournament in the nation’s searing summer months.

Both England and the United States have been irked by suggestions from Fifa officials that Russia and Qatar were more suitable because they have never hosted the World Cup before, saying they should have been told up front that countries who had hosted before were at a disadvantage in the voting.

Qatar has been dogged by controversies not only over the validity of the vote but also the treatment of foreign workers employed on World Cup infrastructure projects, as well as when in 2022 the tournament should be played.

Fifa chief Sepp Blatter has denied that the country had “bought” the World Cup, but said Qatar did have powerful backers and that “political pressures” had been brought to bear, notably from France and Germany, and while he said it was ‘a mistake’ to choose Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup, he meant in the summertime, and that the tournament must be held in the winter instead.

Qatar, for its part, have announced it will abolish its sponsorship system for foreign workers and organisers have said that construction company HBK has given their commitment to respect the welfare of workers “in accordance with the labour law of Qatar and international best practices that protect workers’ rights”.

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Published: May 22, 2014 04:00 AM

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