UPDATE: If you did not get to watch the U.S. World Cup bid committee's presentation live, there is video of the entire thing on FIFA's website here. the committee sent out a press release last night containing quotes and photos from Zurich, Switzerland.
Last night, the committee sent out a press release with quotes and photos from committee members. A few of the photos are above, along with some that ran on the Associated Press wire. The quotes at the bottom of the post.
Here's a look around the latest reporting in the American and international media on the bids and the upcoming vote.
First of all, there are stories in both the Inquirer and Daily News today. The Inquirer's Marc Narducci and the Daily News' Kerith Gabriel take a look at the U.S. bid and its competition for 2022, while the Daily News' Frank Bertucci surveys the 2018 candidates with a focus on England.
Reporting from Zurich, Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl's latest column is headlined "U.S.' bid appears favored for 2022." Wahl writes: "Anyone who tells you he knows with certainty who will get these bids is lying." Nonetheless, he handicaps the U.S. bid as a 4/5 favorite, with Qatar second at 9/4 and Australia at 5/2.
Wahl's column includes this noteworthy quote from U.S. bid chief Sunil Gulati:
And is it possible for the U.S. to win the '22 bid while playing by the rules? "Yes," Gulati maintains. "I certainly hope so, or we wouldn't have gotten into the game. We also made clear we had every intention of winning and clearly thought we could play by the rules and win."
On this side of the Atlantic, the Washington Post's Steven Goff has put together a nice explanation of how the voting process will work. He then sums up the state of affairs this way:
And when the presentations by the U.S. group and its competitors are complete, FIFA's executive committee will culminate years of maneuvering, lobbying and dreaming by awarding the 2022 World Cup to ... Qatar. Or Australia. Maybe Japan or South Korea.
Logic says that the United States will win out, but FIFA is hardly a logical organization. In a tumultuous climate fueled by allegations of corruption and deal-brokering that made the International Olympic Committee's Salt Lake City scandal a decade ago seem tame, predicting the results of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup votes is hopeless.
New York Times columnist George Vescey is even more succinct:
The United States is overwhelmingly the best candidate to hold the 2022 World Cup of soccer.
Which may not matter.
Included in Goff's explanation of the voting process are the latest odds on the vote from British bookmaker William Hill. Qatar is the favorite at 1-2, followed by Australia at 5-2 and the United States at 9-2.
You might be interested to know that when I tried to search for the latest odds on William Hill's website, I got the error message "Sorry, betting no longer available on this event" for both the 2018 and 2022 decisions.
However, I was able to find a quality rundown of odds on the website oddschecker.com. You can view the 2018 odds here and the 2022 odds here.
Regarding the 2018 decision, the English newspaper The Guardian finds reason for English optimism. David Beckham, Prime Minister David Cameron and Prince William are mounting a last-minute charm offensive, and Russia's once-favored bid could be hurt by news that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will not travel to Zurich.
Cameron was met by the horde of traveling British media upon his arrival in Switzerland, and deflected questions about the BBC's investigation into corruption among members of FIFA's executive committee.
This morning, Putin criticized the bidding process in remarks to reporters in Moscow:
"We have unfortunately witnessed a campaign against members of the Fifa executive – filth and compromising material has been poured over them," Putin said. "I see this as unscrupulous competition ahead of the vote."
One of the men implicated in the BBC report, Confederation of African Soccer president Issa Hayatou, told Reuters that he did not take any bribes. "Personally, I know no one can influence me," Hayatou said. "I will vote with a clear conscience."
Although the BBC's report was not televised internationally, it did make its way to YouTube. Soccer by Ives has compiled the segments here.
As we've discussed on here before, two members of what had been a 24-person FIFA executive committee were barred from voting after the Times of London's sting operation a few weeks ago. One of those two men is Oceania Football Confederation Renald Teymarii. I noted last week FIFA's statement that Teymarii's vote would not be reinstated to Oceania if Teymarii continued to appeal against his suspension.
Teymarii decided to go ahead with his appeal, so that vote will remain barred. As a result, Oceania will have no representation on the executive committee for the voting. That has to be good news for the United States, because it removes a sure vote for Australia.
The Guardian profiles each of the remaining 22 executive committee members in this nifty interactive graphic.
In part because of the Teymarii news, the mood has dampened in Australia. The country's hopes were also dented by a report from the famed consulting firm McKinsey, which evaluated each bidding country's ability to meet FIFA's sales goals. Australia got a 68 percent rating in the report. The United States and England both got 100 percent ratings. Qatar got a 70 percent rating.
Among 2018 bidders, Spain/Portugal got 91 percent, Netherlands/Belgium got 87 percent and Russia got 86 percent.
No matter which nation wins, there will be demands from FIFA for government-backed guarantees safeguarding their profits. An investigative reporter with the Guardian has gotten hold of a list containing some of those demands. Among them is an exemption from British money-laundering laws, with no clear reason given for why such an exemption would be necessary:
Section 5.B is entitled "Foreign Exchange Undertakings" and states that the government must provide for "the unrestricted import and export of all foreign currencies to and from the UK, as well as the unrestricted exchange and conversion of these currencies into US dollars, euros or Swiss francs".
Unfortunately, the best piece of writing I've seen on the World Cup bidding is stuck behind a paywall. If you happen to have access to The Times of London's website, you should read the outstanding columns by Matt Dickinson and Matthew Syed. Hopefully the copyright police will not come after me for relaying this snippet of Syed's piece:
Some like to believe that a residual of editorial integrity could have been preserved had the BBC run the programme in full but judiciously altered its timing.
They think it is OK for an independent media to blink when confronted by the threat of blackmail. They think it is benign for the head of the England bid to castigate the BBC out of fear of an unethical backlash from Fifa members. They could not be more deluded.
Thus does the final countdown begin. If you'd like more coverage of today's events, the Guardian's sports desk is live-blogging the presentation and all of the other news going on in Zurich today. I will be back on here tomorrow morning for live coverage of the bid announcement.
Quotes from U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati
On the U.S. World Cup bid presentation today:
I think the group that we've got allows us to properly tell the story that we want to tell about the development of the game in the U.S. over the last quarter century and how we see it over the next quarter century.
That's really been our message, a glass that has become half full throughout the last 25 years, partly through the assistance of FIFA and the World Cup and other events, but we think there is so much more to be done in a market the size of the United States. The legacy potential, the economic legacy potential, is pretty extraordinary.
On President Bill Clinton, the Honorary Chairman of the USA Bid Committee, and his contributions to the U.S. effort:
President Clinton didn't just get involved with our bid last week. He has been involved through most of this year and has been extraordinary in every aspect. He has hosted a board meeting, has written to people, has come to the (2010) World Cup for two of our games, changed his schedule after we beat Algeria because he was caught up in it... he's been everything we've asked.
What does he bring to the bid? There are very few global citizens like President Clinton, very few global treasures, and I think we have one speaking on our behalf tomorrow. I don't think there are many people in the world who resonate the way that he does.
And he's been a fan of the game. He was with us at the 1994 opening game, was with us in the '99 (women's) final, he was at the 2006 final (in Germany), his daughter played when she was younger, and when you hear him talk about the game, and the power of the game, and the connection of that to the things he spends every day thinking about and trying to change, I couldn't do it justice. I'll let him do that tomorrow.
On the McKinsey report mentioned above that rated the U.S. bid as "100 percent" in its ability to hit FIFA revenue targets:
We are certainly pleased that it confirms many of the things we have been saying in our bid.
On meetings with members of the Executive Committee in Zurich prior to the presentation:
I think they're important in confirming those who have given us assurances that they would support us, and trying to win over anyone who may be on the fence. In essence, what we are doing is reconfirming our case or reconfirming our relationships.
You're not going to have multimedia presentations here on an individual basis; there is one 30-minute version of that tomorrow. So it is just reconfirming our case, our legacy case which is very important to us, the economic case, the diversity case, and let's call it the organizational case. It's all of those things.
On the merits of the United States bid:
Being able to change the landscape in a country of 320 million people with a relatively high per capita income is an extraordinary opportunity. The upside potential, economic, consumer-wise, or just legacy-wise of turning on a country of 320 million people so they are avid fans - and clearly they were much more avid and active this past summer than they have ever been before - that shows us it can be done.
The World Cup would be immensely helpful as we try to develop the game if we can get millions more people tuned into the sport, not just the 31 days of the World Cup but to Major League Soccer, to playing soccer, to our women's teams, the after-school programs for soccer. And the 12-year run-up prior to the World Cup is a central part of our story.
We're not now and have never claimed that what happened this summer, all the excitement around the team, has put us on the level of an England or Brazil in terms of fan affinity. But what we're saying is, can you imagine if we get to that level of fan affinity in the U.S.? We think that's possible.
Quotes from Landon Donovan
On his experience in Zurich and preparations for Wednesday's presentation:
It's all a learning process and, as a player, it makes you appreciate what goes on behind the scenes and how much more goes into it than you would ever know when you step on the field. It's given me an appreciation for (FIFA World Cup USA) 1994 and what went into that, and for me this story is personal because it is real for me.
This has given me this life and I want to be able to, in part, help reciprocate and give that back and be part of this process so that in 2022, there is a kid who is 12 years old going to one of the games and having their eyes opened for this first time by this beautiful game and maybe end up the way I did.
On the potential of a FIFA World Cup in the U.S. in 2022:
Part of me is very jealous if we do get the World Cup because to play a World Cup in your home country would be incredible.
On his anticipation for being on the U.S. presentation team today:
I want to be genuine, and I want to tell my story. And I think my story is important. My story can be replicated and duplicated if we get the World Cup in 12 years, and I want to give that opportunity to another kid who will be in my position like I was in 1994.
For me, I take that very seriously. I am excited about it, I guess I'll be a little nervous, mainly because I don't want to go too long and take time from President Clinton. So, I'm going to be real, and I'm going to enjoy it.
Quotes from Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber
On the effect of a FIFA World Cup in the U.S. in 2022:
Rarely does any business have the opportunity to have a 12-year business plan. Most businesses have a three-year plan or a five-year plan. If we get the World Cup, we have a 12-year plan. And our goal is to be one of the top soccer leagues in the world by 2022.
And that's not just by our own measure, but how we're perceived by the rest of the world - the quality of play, a league that's governed properly and respected in terms of the health of our teams from a business perspective, the size and passion of our fan base, the size of our television audience and the commensurate contracts that come along with that, and the overall interest and awareness of the sport.
So, we have a very specific goal. If we get the World Cup, we want to be one of the top leagues in the world by 2022.