FIFA, the governing body of international soccer, announced this morning that it has picked Qatar over the United States to host the 2022 World Cup.
We should not be surprised.
Given all of the reports we've seen and read over the last few weeks about corruption in the voting process, it became increasingly likely as the vote drew near that Qatar was the favorite to win. The bid's chairman, Mohammend Bin Hammam, pulled out all the stops in order to win favor with the 22 voters on FIFA's executive committee.
We may never know if everything Bin Hammam and his colleagues did was legal. Nonetheless, when looking back at the process, it is hard to not conclude that not everything was done above board.
In recent weeks, reports surfaced of a reported deal by which eight members of the executive committee would vote for Spain/Portugal 2018 and Qatar 2022 as a bloc. Among those eight voters were all three executive committee members representing South America.
Some people would call that collusion, which was supposed to be illegal under FIFA rules. Others, including FIFA's investigators, saw nothing wrong. So the matter was dismissed, and the vote went ahead without anyone from the outside world stopping it.
At least the Spain/Portugal bid did not win. But awarding the 2018 World Cup to Russia is equally disturbing. Their tournament will be played across even more time zones than an American World Cup would be, and the country's infrastructure is questionable.
I get the principle of wanting to grow the sport of soccer and wanting to take the World Cup to new countries, but there is so much risk involved with both Qatar and Russia. And given the many rumors about corruption in the voting process, you have to wonder just what the FIFA voters' motives really were.
After the vote, FIFA posted the vote totals by round. Here they are:
2018 FIFA World Cup
Round 1: England 2 votes, Netherlands/Belgium 4 votes, Spain/Portugal 7 votes and Russia 9 votes (as no absolute majority was reached, the candidate with least amount of votes, England, was eliminated)
Round 2: Netherlands/Belgium 2 votes, Spain/Portugal 7 votes and Russia 13 votes (Russia obtained an absolute majority)
2022 FIFA World Cup
Round 1: Australia 1 vote, Japan 3 votes, Korea Republic 4 votes, Qatar 11 votes, USA 3 votes (Australia eliminated)
Round 2: Japan 2 votes, Korea Republic 5 votes, Qatar 10 votes and USA 5 votes (Japan eliminated)
Round 3: Korea Republic 5 votes, Qatar 11 votes, USA 6 votes (Korea Republic eliminated)
Round 4: Qatar 14 votes and USA 8 votes (Qatar obtained an absolute majority)
After the announcement, I overheard Philadelphia Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz say "The oil countries won it." You may not agree with the politics of that statement, but it's not hard to imagine where a lot of the money for Russia and Qatar's bids came from.
Now people will start asking questions of the people who ran the United States' bid, including bid chair and U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati. I will not be one of them.
Gulati and his team certainly did its fair share of lobbying, traveling all over the world to visit every executive committee member in person. The bid's final presentation included some of the most respected Americans on the world stage, such as actor Morgan Freeman and former president Bill Clinton.
But for all of the star power, and all of the gigantic American companies that sponsored the bid (some of whom are quite close with FIFA and its member nations), the U.S. bid stayed out of the political mud. This is a good thing.
As disappointing as it is that the U.S. did not win, it would have been far worse if the U.S.' reputation had been tarnished by engaging in the kind of corruption and behind-the-scenes deal-making for which many of FIFA's most important power-brokers have become renowned.
In the long run, there's no question that the World Cup will eventually come back to the United States. There is simply too much money on the table for it to not. The U.S. bid did not have as high stakes as that of Australia, for example, which will probably have to wait for the U.S. and another European nation to host the World Cup before it gets another chance.
I'd like to know what you all think of today's news, and of the whole process. We've discussed it a few times on here, but now the matter is official. So where should things go from here?
You can follow reactions to the news from fans and media in real time by clicking here. Check back here later today for reaction from our region and the U.S. bid committee.