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Qatar win means MLS doesn’t need to make any more promises

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For all the Canadian soccer fans hoping to make short hops across the border to catch World Cup games in 2022, there is disappointment.

The United States’ bid to host the tourney was unsuccessful, as FIFA awarded the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar.

Russia, despite England’s best efforts, isn’t a surprise. And, even though fingers will be pointed at the BBC’s Panorama program and its decision to broadcast its findings on corruption in FIFA just days before the vote, Russia was the favourite going in. And Russia has a footballing history. It has hosted a Champions League final. It has fans who are passionate about the game.

Whether or not you think Portugal-Spain and England got hosed in the bidding, at least you have to begrudgingly admit that there is some value, some greater good, to a World Cup in Russia.

That’s not the case with Qatar.

Qatar will give the world stadiums that will be air-conditioned. Outdoor stadiums that will be air-conditioned, that is. A World Cup can’t be played in 50 C conditions, so that was the Middle Eastern country’s biggest challenge. But, in a nation of just 1.4 million, how many of the nine stadiums that need to be built, plus the three need to be renovated, will become white elephants once the tourney is done? Twelve world-class stadiums in a place that’s about half as big as Toronto proper; no matter how wealthy the Qataris are, that’s a recipe for redundancy.

Air-conditioned stadiums in the desert. Infrastructure created only for the World Cup, never to be used again. Yes, FIFA has made the greatest anti-green choice for the tournament, sending the message that money is far more important than the greater good of the game.

“There’s no way around it: I am disappointed. Millions of U.S. soccer fans worked hard to bring the World Cup to our country. To come up short is very difficult to take,” wrote U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati after his country learned that its bid had come up short

“But in the face of this disappointment, we shouldn’t lose track of all that we achieved. During the past two years, the outpouring of support for soccer in the United States has been inspiring and historic. More than one million people signed on to our Bid, and more than 100 million watched last summer’s World Cup.”

What was stunning about the 2022 bid was that Australia, a country that has held two Summer Olympics and a rugby World Cup, got just one vote and was eliminated. (In the European voting, England was eliminated in the first round)
But, for Major League Soccer, there is now an escape clause. Earlier this week, commissioner Don Garber said that MLS would rival the Premier League and La Liga by 2022, a far reach for a league with a per-team salary cap that’s lower than what one Manchester United or Real Madrid star makes in a season. And, MLS is investigating moving to a schedule that fits with the European calendar; a season that starts in the autumn and wraps up in the spring.

Those promises were made to help boost the 2022 USA bid. Since the 1994 World Cup was awarded to the United States on the basis that it would launch Major League Soccer, would it not have been fitting to get the World Cup back on promises that MLS would be overhauled?

But, with no World Cup in sight, MLS, if it so chooses — and this would be the wise action — can allow the calendar debate to fizzle, and avoid snowy conditions in Montreal, Toronto, Columbus, Chicago and the Rocky Mountain cities.
The league can continue to build on its slow-and-steady-wins-the-race pace.

There is no longer a need for grandiose promises.

For the final word, I leave it to the Twitter musings of the always entertaining Jimmy Conrad, defender for Kansas City Wiz…. damn… Sporting Kansas City.

“Word On The Street: FIFA Is Considering Bermuda, Greenland and Malta As Hosts For The 2026 World Cup.”

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