Thursday, December 2, 2010

USA Loses Out on 2022 World Cup Bid to Qatar; RBNY Notes

I'm still trying to sort through my feelings about today's crushing announcement in Zurich that tiny, human rights-challenged Qatar, not the United States, will serve as host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.  I had predicted on Twitter a few days ago that Russia and Qatar would prevail for 2018 and 2002, respectively, more out of my natural sense of pessimism and lack of faith in FIFA than anything else.  In my heart I was hoping that common sense would eventually carry the day, but it was not to be.  For those who made it out to Red Bull Arena today for the announcement, you have my condolences.  There's nothing worse than being in a roomful of your countrymen all bummed out by the same thing, at the same time.  Believe me - I was there for the Ghana match.

In the end, the USA bid lacked that extra degree of sexiness that Qatar was able to offer, with its promises of futuristic, air-conditioned stadiums that will allow players and fans to escape the nation's oppressive summer heat.  By contrast, the USA bid was built on a foundation of ready-made facilities, sold out tickets and a televised, worldwide financial bonanza.  The American bid may have offered the most "steak," but I never had the sense that there would eventually prove to be enough "sizzle" to satisfy FIFA Executive Committee members.  There was no grand construction plan, no resounding message of reconciliation or international understanding. 

Had the 2010 World Cup in South Africa gone less smoothly, I suspect that FIFA might have thought twice about committing itself to two of the higher-risk bids.  Instead, emboldened by this past summer's love-in, Blatter and company have decided to throw the dice again.  Only time will tell whether they've been wise or foolish.  Even setting aside the considerable human rights issues, the barriers that Qatar will need to overcome in order to stage a successful tournament are numerous, from entertaining guests (alcohol is severely restricted in Qatar, not to mention dress) to building hotel rooms to providing leisure activities to visitors to the heat that has been the subject of intense concern.  Best of luck to them, but I'll choose to remain skeptical.

As for American soccer fans, once we finish licking our wounds we will turn our attention back to European football and our own domestic league.  There's certainly a chance that the powers that be at US Soccer might choose to bid again for the 2026 tournament.  Who knows?  At this point, you have to wonder whether they'll decide to dance with the devil again.

As for that domestic league, this is probably as good a time as any to catch up on a few Red Bulls news and notes. Brian Lewis managed to pull Erik Solér aside for a brief interview today, and had some interesting news to report, including confirmation of the Jan-Gunnar Solli and Luke Rodgers signings, an update on a new training ground in the Harrison/Kearny area and a potential TV deal on the horizon.  Solér also made it clear that Joel Lindpere would not be leaving New York over the summer, quashing rumors about the Estonian assassin taking his talents to the EPL.  In addition, he indicated that the club was considering signing Maryland midfielder Matt Kassel, who has had an excellent season in College Park, as a homegrown player.  Kassel's Terrapins host Michigan on Saturday in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Men's Soccer Championship.

By Friday afternoon, we should also know which RBNY players, if any, will be offered in the first ever MLS Re-Entry Draft, so stay tuned for that as well.  If it goes anything like the recently-concluded Expansion Draft, the Red Bulls could emerge completely unscathed, but I suspect we may see a player or two made available.
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