Why the U.S. needs to play more soccer

Last week the U.S. lost its bid for the 2022 FIFA World Cup to Qatar. Yes, Qatar.   We did beat out South Korea, Japan and Australia to make it to the final round but then were beaten by Qatar with an overwhelming 14-8 vote. This loss comes especially hard after our recent loss to Brazil as host for the 2016 Summer Olympics. Qatar was selected as a consequence of the International Sport Committee moving to new territories, specifically, away from highly industrialized Western nations and toward Eastern and Southern nations. The most recent FIFA games in South Africa are an example of this.   Don’t get me wrong, the shift is a great idea. It gives developing nations a reason to improve infrastructure and tourism sectors, in addition to gaining massive revenues from the event itself.   However, as the Indian press put it, “Qatar is not the little country that could; rolling in oil-and-gas wealth, it is the fastest-growing-economy in the world — according to the IMF (International Monetary Fund) — with the second-highest per capita income.” Sure, the U.S. isn’t “little country that could,” but if the goal of shifting events away from the West is to spur development, why give it to a country that is already so wealthy?   Not only is it economically prosperous, but Qatar also sits in the middle of a conflict-wracked region and is tiny. How tiny? It is approximately the size of Connecticut. Predicted attendance levels would double its population.   It also has an extremely hot and dry climate, with average temperatures of 106 degrees Fahrenheit during June and July. Guess what is also normally held in June and July? Yup, the World Cup.   The U.S. has none of these issues;with diverse climate regions from sea to shining sea we can offer ideal playing and viewing environments.   So why did we lose? Politics and money. Qatar made the most sense commercially and politically. A USA Today informant said, “What’s important is the political lobbying and the political posturing. Alongside of that is the need to present a very, very strong commercial case.”   If we were more of a soccer-friendly nation and didn’t lose so many future soccer players to other sports, we might’ve had more people at the vote, lobbying harder than we were. Instead, the real football — soccer — gets labeled as lame by the big three, American football, baseball and basketball. There goes our political advantage.   The money in American sports funnels mostly toward these big three, especially to American football. We are hardly able to pay foreign soccer players enough to attract them to play here, and since a Major League Soccer game occasionally makes it on TV — there goes our commercial advantage.   We can complain all we want about the FIFA committee, and bash Qatar until our fists are bloody, but in the end we lost our bid because we are not a soccer nation.