By Brian Trusdell
NEW YORK -- The United States announced 18 cities Tuesday that it will submit to host the 2018 or 2022 World Cup, choosing stadia with an average capacity of 78,000 but only five locations that hosted games in 1994.
Twenty-one stadia were chosen from either in the city proper or the metropolitan areas of Atlanta; Baltimore; Boston; Dallas; Denver; Houston; Indianapolis; Kansas City, Missouri; Los Angeles; Miami; Nashville, Tennessee; New York; Philadelphia; Phoenix; San Diego; Seattle; Tampa, Florida; and Washington. All the cities selected are different from when the United States attracted a total attendance of 3.6 million except Boston, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York and Washington.
The bid will be submitted May 14 to FIFA's Executive Committee, which will decide on December 2 which countries will host both the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
Besides the United States, Australia, England, Japan and Russia have formally declared an interest to host both tournaments. Netherlands and Belgium, and Portugal and Spain have have announced joint bids for both. Indonesia, Qatar and Korea Republic have announced they will bid for 2022 only.
Bid Executive Director David Downs said the decision as to which cities would eventually host games would come five years before the start of the event.
"We have always thought 12 (was a good number of cities to use)," U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati said. "FIFA has said 9-12. We want a national event. In order to truly build the game, the more venues the better."
Of the more than 50 cities and 70 stadia with a capacity of 40,000 or more that initially expressed interest in April of hosting games, the USA Bid Committee whittled the field to 45 stadia in 38 cities by June after a detailed questionaire was completed.
More information and another review process further reduced the number to 27 cities that were considered for the final selection to meet FIFA's demands of 12-18.
The USA Bid Committee said it selected the cities based on 21 criteria ranking from market size, geographical location, climate, hotels and transportation, soccer history and passion for the sport, attraction as a tourist destination and previous experience at hosting major sporting or cultural events.
"It's been a dramatic change since 1994," Downs said. "We have a problem (of too many cities to chose from), but it's a good problem to have."
Both Downs and Gulati noted the vast cultural shift from 1988, when the United States last was awarded the World Cup.
"People get it now; they understand the sport," Gulati said explaining the American public's knowledge of soccer. "We haven't had to twist arms."
Since then, the United States has twice staged the Women's World Cup, launched a professional league that has grown to 16 teams, played in or qualified for every World Cup, and in June finished runner-up in the Confederations Cup.
Downs told a story of this past summer, when as a courtesy he alerted the office of then Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels that he would be in town for the July 4 Gold Cup doubleheader at Qwest Field involving the United States. Noting it was the American Independence Day holiday, he said he did not expect the mayor to join him at the game. Amazingly, Downs received a warm reception to his outreach and was invited to Nickels' home for coffee.
"I don't think that would have happened 20 years ago," Downs said laughing.
On the Web: www.gousabid.com