England face fight for 2018 World Cup
It may be just a friendly tonight at Wembley, but the Football Association have been warned that it faces the mother of all battles to defeat its American counterparts when it comes to winning the 2018 World Cup bid. The United States' top football officials have also hinted that England's game against Trinidad & Tobago on Sunday will not secure them the vote of the influential Concacaf president, Jack Warner.
Both nations will bid for the 2018 tournament – although the US have yet officially to announce it – and the FA had hoped that it would steal a march on its rivals by playing the game in the Caribbean. Warner, a controversial figure for his involvement in a 2006 World Cup finals ticketing scandal, is the Concacaf president, representing north and central America and the Caribbean, and one of the 24 Fifa executives who vote on who will host the World Cup finals.
The president of the US soccer federation (USSF), Sunil Gulati, said that his country had nothing to fear from any of the contenders. "I think the FA are more sophisticated than thinking they are going to get Jack Warner's vote on the back of playing one game," he said. "There aren't any Concacaf bidders at this point and Mr Warner is the president of Concacaf."
Gulati also hinted that he might be more accommodating to the FA chief executive Richard Scudamore's controversial plans for the Premier League's "international round", involving a 39th game to the season played abroad and an idea that was derided by Fifa. Gulati said that the USSF could sanction the staging of the Community Shield in the US, although that game falls under the FA's remit rather than that of the Premier League.
"I don't think the principle is a foolish one. We have to follow Fifa guidance and in the past when countries wanted to play official games in the US we have declined," he said. "We have hosted the Italian equivalent of the Community Shield in 1993 and that would be very different to holding a Premier League game. We would consider it. The message about the 39th game was released the wrong way."
It is what the US can do for the World Cup, however, that the FA will fear most. The USSF will present a bid document offering Fifa the choice of 50 stadiums with a capacity of 70,000 or more. The attendance total for the 1994 World Cup finals in the US is still the competition's record, even though subsequent tournaments have staged more games. The USSF flagship will be the New York Jets' and New York Giants' new stadium in New Jersey, which will cost £700m and hold 90,000. The Dallas Cowboys' new stadium will cost £500m and will be open by 2011.
Gulati, an economics professor, said: "There is no a country in the world in a better position in terms of stadium facilities and size. We could have hosted the World Cup in 1998 in stadiums that didn't even exist when we hosted it in 1994 and we could have done the same in 2002 and not use any stadiums that existed in 1998.
"The FedEx Field [home of the Washington Redskins] is 12 years old and people are talking about building another one. Every city has one: stadiums with domes that open and close, you name it. My point is that it is not a question of fearing any country. We think we'd have a great bid."
Timeline for 2018 bid
November 2005 Government announces study into England bid.
February 2007 Chancellor Gordon Brown gives his backing.
October 2007 Football Association confirms bid.
2009 Bidding to close.
October 2011 Host country announced.
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