Theories loom on why U.S. lost World Cup to Qatar

Dec 6 2010 - 5:19pm

PHILADELPHIA -- The theories were out there as soon as the vote was announced. How could the United States lose the right to host soccer's 2022 World Cup in a head-to-head matchup with Qatar?

The Mideast country, with a population of about 840,000, not only beat the United States in a head-to-head duel, but won rather decisively in the voting, 14-8, on Thursday.

FIFA, soccer's governing body, awarded Qatar the 2022 World Cup moments after announcing that Russia would host in 2018.

There were four rounds of voting conducted by 22 FIFA voting members to decide among the five contenders to host in 2022, according to FIFA.com. The winner needed 12 votes. If a majority wasn't received in any round, the country with the lowest vote total was dropped.

Among the five countries being considered, Qatar received 11 votes in the first round, seven more than the next highest contender, South Korea. The United States and Japan had three votes and Australia, with just one vote, was eliminated. In subsequent rounds, Japan and South Korea were eliminated. Finally, Qatar won by a six-vote margin.

President Obama expressed his disappointment.

"I think it was the wrong decision," he told reporters.

Philadelphia soccer figures offered theories for why the United States -- which hosted a financially successful World Cup in 1994 that drew a record 3.59 million fans -- lost out.

Before Thursday's announcement, Philadelphia Union team manager Peter Nowak said that hosting a World Cup just 16 years ago might work against the United States.

"The U.S. should get the chance to host, but FIFA may feel it's too soon," Nowak said.

There was another theory, that FIFA wants to help the sport grow by awarding it to countries that have not hosted the event.

"In a bizarre way, I try to take this as a compliment from FIFA because they obviously gave the World Cup to two countries that are trying to grow the game and in a way, (soccer in the U.S. has) arrived," said Nick Sakiewicz, the Union's CEO and operating partner. "People at FIFA look at the U.S. as a soccer nation and we don't need a World Cup to grow."

And of course there is another theory, one having to do with Qatar's deep financial pockets as the world's largest exporter of liquefied natural gas.

"You can't help but feel it was all about money," Union defender Danny Califf said.

The voting occurred against the backdrop of allegations that FIFA officials have taken bribes for votes in the past. Last month, two FIFA officials were suspended amid such allegations.

U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati was diplomatic as possible during a conference call discussing the vote but couldn't hide his deep frustration. Gulati said that for the last six months, he felt that Qatar was going to provide the stiffest competition to the United States.

"It's a disappointment for sure," said Gulati, who did not say whether the United States would bid for the 2026 World Cup. "It's a setback for the sport."

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