Brazil is as soccer-crazed as any nation on Earth, but with its government spending $14 billion to host the 2014 World Cup, there are waves of protests from people who believe that money would have been better spent on health care and education.
As Qatar struggles to get itself ready to host the 2022 games, there is a growing belief that the games will end up here in the United States. While other countries have struggled with the undertaking, it could prove an economic boon for America due to the plethora of already-built NFL stadiums that could be used.
Qatar is spending more than $200 billion to prepare itself to host those games -- building its sports infrastructure from scratch. But with a bubbling bribery scandal, project delays, and abhorrent working conditions that have already killed thousands or workers, there is a push to take the games away from the Middle Eastern country before things get worse. It's time for the United States to push FIFA, soccer's governing body, to bring the tournament here.
The U.S. could host the games tomorrow
The United States, with dozens of large football stadiums spread throughout its major cities, could host a World Cup tournament next month, if needed -- never mind eight years from now.
When the United States hosted the World Cup in 1994, the country spent approximately $30 million to prepare itself, or about $46.2 million in today's dollars. Those costs boiled down to a few stadium upgrades in Detroit and Dallas. Otherwise, the country was good to go.
During that tournament, the United States set a tournament record that still stands, with nearly 70,000 fans attending each game -- almost 3.6 million for the whole tournament -- thanks, in part, to the large capacity of the stadiums.
That's a far cry from even the $3.6 billion Brazil spent this year to build or refurbish stadiums for this year's games, along with all the other infrastructure costs needed to host the games -- not to mention the $200 billion Qatar is spending on a plan that looks increasingly less likely to be completed on time.
Hosting games typically a loser
Global sporting events such as the World Cup and the Olympics have come under fire in recent years over the amount of money they cost to host. The next Olympics to be awarded, the 2022 Winter Olympics, has seen a long list of potential hosts bailing on their Olympic dreams over concerns about cost.
The majority of that comes down to building the venues, like large swimming pools, track-and-field stadiums, and bobsled tracks. That's how Sochi, Russia, can ring up $50 billion in debt to host the games, leaving the town with a bunch of facilities that won't be used again.
That would not be the case in bringing the World Cup back to the United States. With venues already in place, the country would need little in infrastructure spending to get prepared for what could be a nice boost economically.
Alan Rothenberg, who was president of the U.S. Soccer Federation in 1994 and was head of the World Cup Organizing Committee, said at the time that hosting the tournament brought the country $4 billion in economic activity, including $623 million for the Los Angeles area, which hosted the finale between Brazil and Italy at the Rose Bowl.
Soccer growing in popularity here
That was also at a time when soccer was less mainstream in the United States. In recent years, ESPN, NBC, and Fox have been regularly broadcasting international soccer games such as England's Premier League to American audiences. That, along with the Internet, has allowed more access to the game's fans and helped create new ones.
Those things did not exist in 1994, and the tournament was seen as more of a curious oddity than it would be if it were played here today.
It makes sense to bring the games here. Qatar is struggling to be ready for the games, and the process that awarded the country the hosting duties is a black eye to the sport. Changing course and bringing the games to the United States is the easy and smart solution. It's time for American officials to push to make that happen.
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