U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati named former U.S. President Bill Clinton the Honorary Chairman of the USA Bid Committee, the official committee focusing on bringing the World Cup back to the States in 2018 or 2022. Gulati made the announcement in Harlem, New York at the home of youth soccer club F.C. Harlem.
A host of political and soccer dignitaries, from Congressman Charles Rangel to MLS Commissioner Don Garber, were on hand for the occasion. Prior to the press conference, three of New York Red Bull’s finest, Juan Pablo Ángel, Chris Albright and Seth Stammler took part in a soccer clinic with the kids.
In his introduction, Gulati said the following of President Clinton:
We now need to convince [FIFA] about the American spirit; that we want and will be hospitable, that we will openly welcome the world. I can think of no person better to help us do that than President Clinton.
I think we can all agree on that. Upon accepting the honor, President Clinton said that it was fitting that the announcement was made in Harlem in close proximity to his office as he was the first sitting U.S. President to watch a World Cup game on home soil, a tournament that he believes was ultimately responsible for the day’s backdrop. According to Clinton:
That World Cup realized a surplus of $50 million. It allowed for the creation of MLS Works and the U.S. Soccer Foundation, organizations that spearheaded the development of playing fields like the one we are standing on now. Increasing the opportunity for people all over our country to experience the world’s game, soccer.
President Clinton went on to praise FIFA as a standard bearer in using sport as a tool for bringing about positive social environmental change. The U.S. bid he said “has embraced those principles and is focusing on ways to use the world’s largest sporting event as a platform for promotion. We’ll have a chance to do even more in 2018 or 2022, to create new opportunities for growth in the sport and enhance the quality of life in our country off the field.”
The Bid Committee’s slogan “The Game Is In US” was plastered around the field on several banners and used by the former President to highlight the nation’s multiculturalism and diversity, which he believes would provide a ready-made fan base for every potential World Cup team in 2018 or 2022.
President Clinton went on to share the following interesting facts about how soccer has continued to grow in the national consciousness since 1994.
- The U.S. has 90 million people who consider themselves soccer fans (15 million active participants in the game).
- Americans have purchased more tickets than any other country, aside from the host nation of South Africa, for the 2010 World Cup.
In his concluding remarks, President Clinton harkened back to his experiences traveling to some of the world’s poorest countries. It was during these trips that he became aware of the role that soccer plays in the lives of poor people around the world. He summed up his thoughts on the power of the game and the reason why the U.S. should win the 2018/2022 bid with the following statement:
“Soccer is a sport that brings people together across all lines; political, racial, ethnic, religious, cultural, that divides people. It really is a metaphor for the way the world should work. It is a metaphor for the way America is beginning to work more and more as our diversity increases. It emphasizes that what we have in common is more important than our differences. So I think one of the reasons that America ought to get this bid and one of the reasons why I agreed to be the Honorary Chair is that we want the world to look more like the world of soccer. We want people to think more like these kids think when they play. We want people to relate to other people in other lands more like they do on the soccer field. Yes they compete, somebody wins, somebody loses, and they wait to compete again. But they play by a set of rules and they are all better off for having tried. That’s what we need more of and the one reason I hope we will win this bid.”
Judging by President Clinton’s exuberance, the U.S. bid is well positioned and in good hands. Projected ticket revenue is estimated to be $1 billion. The infrastructure from stadiums, highways and telecommunications to travel and lodging is already present. The only thing that is now needed is the help of the American public. The new Honorary Chairman of the USA Bid Committee implores fans to go online and sign the electronic petition at www.gousabid.com, which would help show FIFA and the world that the U.S. wants to host the World Cup and will welcome the world with open arms. U.S. soccer’s newest ambassador wants you to know, your country needs you; so go out and vote and let’s bring the World Cup home.