The United States will get a final chance to state its case for hosting the 2022 World Cup when a delegation makes a presentation to soccer's governing body, FIFA, on Wednesday in Zurich, Switzerland.
FIFA will announce the host countries for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups on Thursday. The USA bid committee is pulling out all the stops, with former President Bill Clinton among the presenters in Zurich.
The United States is competing with Australia, Qatar, South Korea, and Japan for the right to host the 2022 World Cup.
On Tuesday, the Oceania Football Confederation, which includes Australia, accepted the loss of its voting rights. Reynald Temarii, the suspended Oceania president, was secretly filmed by undercover reporters from the Sunday Times of London, which published an edited video of the Tahitian official appearing to offer his World Cup vote for funding for a soccer academy in New Zealand. Temarii is suing the newspaper. FIFA's ethics committee cleared Temarii of corruption charges last month, but banned him from soccer for one year for breaches of loyalty and confidentiality.
Eighteen U.S. cities, including Philadelphia, are in the running to host games if the United States wins the bid. It's estimated that 12 will make the cut.
The other cities are Indianapolis, Houston, Miami, Tampa Bay, Los Angeles, New York/New Jersey, Atlanta, Nashville, Seattle, Baltimore, Washington, Kansas City, Dallas, Denver, Boston, San Diego, and Phoenix/Glendale, Ariz.
Of course, the United States has to win the bid first.
"We have many selling points," said David Downs, executive director of the U.S. bid committee in an e-mail from Zurich. "Eighteen spectacular host cities, including Philadelphia which has been a friend to the bid and U.S. Soccer, experience in hosting large international events, a large and passionate fan base, and a sustainability legacy that will make an impact in the U.S. and throughout the world. There's much more to our bid as well, and we plan to illustrate as much of it as possible during our presentation on Wednesday."
The United States hosted the World Cup in 1994, something the committee will emphasize in its presentation.
"We drew a World Cup-record 3.59 million fans, and the 1994 tournament also still stands as the most profitable in World Cup history," Downs said. "But above all, it was the growth driver for the sport we anticipated it would be."
He said part of that growth was the formation of Major League Soccer, which debuted in 1996. The Union just completed their first MLS season, and were fourth in attendance, averaging 19,254 fans in 15 games - 13 at PPL Park in Chester and two at Lincoln Financial Field.
"Today we have Major League Soccer, 100 million fans, and 24 million registered players," Downs said. "And yet, in a country of 310 million people representing a diversity of cultures and ethnicities, the opportunity for continued growth is immense. As much as we are very proud of the legacy of 1994, we are motivated and inspired by what possibilities are ahead if we are privileged to be named the host in 2022."
Just as the region supported the Union, Philadelphia also threw its support behind the World Cup bid. Of the 18 U.S. cities in contention, Philadelphia has sent the most signatures in support of a petition for the United States to host the World Cup.
As of Tuesday morning, Philadelphia had 102,970 signatures. Indianapolis was second with 82,214.
If the United States wins the bid, Union CEO and operating partner Nick Sakiewicz is confident that Philadelphia will be selected.
"We lead the pack in petitioning of all 18 cities and sold 430,000 soccer tickets between April and October, launched a team in MLS, and there is just great support in this area," Sakiewicz said. "Philadelphia has gotten great marks for our involvement in the bid."