Fall guys: Mexican defender Efrain Juarez, left, fouls Ecuador defender Geovanny Nazareno (AP Photo).
Also: EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) –
The United States has a strong ally in its bid to host the 2018 or 2022 World Cup: its biggest rival, Mexico.
Justino Compean, president of the Mexican Football Federation, said Friday before his team played Ecuador in a sold-out New Meadowlands Stadium that every nation in the CONCACAF region (North America, Central America and the Caribbean) needs to back one bid. Compean made it clear the United States presents the strongest chance to win FIFA’s favor and that all teams in the region should back the Americans.
The United States is up against Russia, England, Australia, joint bids from Spain-Portugal and Netherlands-Belgium. Qatar, South Korea and Japan are only in the 2022 race. Winners will be announced in December.
This year’s World Cup begins on June 11 in South Africa.
“The U.S. has the best stadiums in CONCACAF. There are no comparisons,” Compean said. “The infrastructure throughout (CONCACAF) of our stadiums is not comparable to the U.S. So we decided we need one bid to come from CONCACAF and we are supporting the only bidder from our region.”
In thanking Compean for his backing, U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati expressed “extreme confidence” that the Americans will be selected for one of the tournaments up for bidding.
“There is a general belief that ’18 is going to go to Europe, it seems,” Gulati said. “We can go to 2022 in that case. But we are just as interested in ’18.”
Gulati noted that U.S. representatives supplied a ton — literally — of documents to FIFA detailing the bids. For the 1994 tournament hosted by the United States, which was a huge financial success for FIFA and for American soccer, everything was contained in a loose leaf binder.
“We are far more ready than in the 1987 and 1988 bidding, but the requirements have changed enormously,” he said. “Back then, you needed a plan. Now, we have contracts with 18 cities and stadiums, have contacted every conceivable government agency … and this is also a different soccer country. We have seen the birth of a league (MLS), which today announced its 19th team. We have a woman’s league and soccer-specific stadiums.”
Glendale, Ariz., is one of the 18 cities included in the U.S. bids. Gulati said there have been no discussions of dropping the University of Phoenix Stadium because of the state’s passage of a tougher immigration law.
“It’s a long way between now and 2018 and 2022,” he said. “At this point it’s premature to make any decisions given the fact the law is being challenged in a number of ways.
“Obviously it is a very difficult issue for the governor and legislators. I believe everyone involved will try to find balance between the law and the humanity. They are probably off the mark in this particular legislation and hopefully everyone will find a better balance.”
Compean added that Mexico might consider dropping Arizona venues from future tours of the United States by the national team, which tends to draw well everywhere it plays north of the border. Its game in Chicago on Monday also is sold out, and another match in Houston is 80 percent sold.
“We can’t give enough solidarity to the people who live in Arizona and work to earn money to send back to Mexico,” he said.