US Soccer president Sunil Gulati still shooting for World Cup in the United States
U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati is set to assume his seat among FIFA's power brokers after his election to the influential 25-man FIFA Executive Committee last Friday.
And that can only be a good thing for the USA's bid to host future World Cups.
While making it clear that he will be working for CONCACAF during his tenure on the FIFA ExCo, Gulati did not hide the fact that U.S. Soccer is interested in another World Cup after losing out on the 2022 event to Qatar.
"Look, we've made it clear in the past that we think hosting a World Cup in the United States would be a positive," Gulati told the media on a Monday teleconference call. (LISTEN TO IT HERE)
"[CONCACAF president] Jeff Webb, in his presidential comments at the [confederation's] Congress on Friday, made it very clear that it's one of his top priorities and requests of [FIFA president Sepp] Blatter and of FIFA is that the 2026 World Cup come to CONCACAF. That's certainly is something we'd be targeting in the future."
But even before a 2026 World Cup, Gulati will be helping CONCACAF fight for a fourth guaranteed spot to the World Cup. Currently, the CONCACAF region has three automatic berths, with the fourth-best team engaging in a playoff with the top team from Oceania (New Zealand in 2013).
"Is there a push for that?" Gulati said of the fourth spot. "The answer is yes and we've made that very clear. Obviously It won't apply for this World Cup. And I think certainly the ability to get a fourth spot will depend partly on what happens in Brazil. If our [CONCACAF] teams are successful, that increases the likelihood of that happening.
"But it's very much a zero-sum game because the half-spot has to come from somewhere," Gulati continued. "The next World Cup being in a European country, Brazil will be giving up that full slot. But will UEFA be saying OK it's Russia plus the full number of spots we've had in the past? I don't know. It's a little bit early for that and it's certainly not independent of the performance of the CONCACAF teams next summer in Brazil."
The US national team will hope to be among the teams showcased in Brazil 2014 and the Americans are coming off two matches that helped their cause: a 1-0 home win over Costa Rica and a 0-0 draw on the road to Mexico.
But the victory over Costa Rica in the "SnowClasico" is still the talk of World Cup qualifying, with talk of the Ticos exacting revenge on the Americans by having them play on the artificial turf at the Estadio Saprissa instead of the lush accommodations of the National Stadium.
"It's up to them," Gulati said. "If Saprissa Stadium meets the requirements of a FIFA venue, of course they can [host the game there]."
Costa Rica didn't vote for Gulati in the voting for the FIFA ExCo seat. In fact, the Central American nations voted as a block for Mexico, and Gulati acknowledged there was "definitely a language alliance."
Gulati says he met with the Costa Rican federation president at the CONCACAF Congress last week.
"We didn't play in Denver in the hopes it would snow or anticipate snow," Gulati said. "We had a perfect week. It started snowing exactly two-and-a-half hours before the game started.
"Our primary rationale for playing in Denver as opposed to the other venues was that it's at altitude and we were going to Mexico four days later," he continued. "Given the results — and I don't mean the snow, but the win and then a good result in Mexico — it'd be pretty hard to argue that [USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann's] thoughts weren't on track."