By Kevin Koczwara
Despite being labeled a “high risk” country, lacking a a poor transportation system, and the dangerous heat, Qatar walked away with the 2022 World Cup Thursday. The little country in the Middle East with oodles of wealth will be the first in the region to host a World Cup.
The United States vied for the same spot, and evidently the U.S. star studded bid featuring Bill Clinton, Morgan Freeman and Landon Donovan wasn’t enough to swing votes in favor of the red, white, and blue.
Like many other American soccer fans, former U.S. Men’s National Team and New England Revolution player, Mike Burns was hoping the U.S. would come away with the World Cup.
“Sheer disappointment [that the U.S. wasn’t awarded the 2022 World Cup], from a personal perspective, from a Revs perspective, from a former national team player perspective.I think that’s the one word, disappointment,” says Burns, who now works for the Revolution as the team’s Vice President – Player Personnel.
New England Revolution owner Bob Kraft put in a proposal for the U.S.’s bid for the 2022 World Cup to have some of the games played at Gillette Stadium, the Revolution and New England Patriots’, of the National Football League, home field. Burns, employed by Kraft, and the Kraft family hoped Gillette Stadium would have been selected as one of the venues to host some of the World Cup games if the U.S.’s bid succeeded.
“Who doesn’t want to be a part of the World Cup? In 1994 at the old Foxborough Stadium, the Krafts felt strongly about hosting a World Cup game, and were granted that at their venue,” said Burns. “With a newer stadium now – still in Foxborough – it still would have been an objective to host games as well.
“That’s what we hoped for, but there were no assurances that was going to happen. We would like to think we would have been in the mix.”
Burns played on the U.S. Men’s National Team in the 1994 World Cup, and he remembers how great it was to play on soccer’s biggest stage on his home soil, and just how important it was for the sport of soccer in the U.S.
“Looking back at my experience, I think that’s why I have so much personal disappointment, having been part of the team [USMNT] in ‘94,” says Burns. “I don’t think, at the time, any of us realized what an event that was and how special that was; to be part of the team in your host country. Whatever player is selected and whatever year the U.S. gets it [the World Cup], it will be pretty special for those guys when that date and time comes.”
After the success of the World Cup in ‘94, the United State’s launched its most successful professional soccer league to date, Major League Soccer. The MLS and the respect of soccer in the U.S. are stronger than ever 16 years later.
“Its been said by a lot of people, but that [World Cup] was the springboard for the MLS, and that opened a lot of people’s eyes in the U.S. to how big the sport is worldwide,” said Burns.
“It’s still, to date, the most successful World Cup in the history of World Cups. For that to have taken place, and then the launch of the MLS and the success the MLS has had. It would have been fantastic to have 12 years to lead up for our sport to gain momentum for 2022 . That’s not realistic now, but you have to get on with it and deal with.”
Burns and the United States aren’t the only ones having to deal with losing its bid to Qatar. Japan and its hosting partner Korea, as well as Australia were also overlooked for the right to host the 2022 World Cup.
Qatar boasts the world’s best GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and was far and away the smallest and least populated country to bid for the World Cup. In comparison to the other countries, Qatar is a peanut on the global map compared to the elephants that are the U.S.A. and Australia (it’s a continent all its own!). But what the country lacks in size, it makes up for in ambition and wealth.
No other country bidding for either the 2018 (went to Russia) or the 2022 World Cup can boast plans to build an island stadium or air-conditioned fields. That’s ambition.
But Qatar has a lot of work to do. The country doesn’t have the sufficient infrastructure, transportation access, or stadiums in place yet. The country has a lot of building to do.
“I don’t want to say I’m shocked, it was a bit surprising [that Qatar was awarded the World Cup],” says Burns. “They have an awful lot of work to do in terms of infrastructure, hotels and stadiums. They have a lot of work to do, but by all accounts their bid was pretty spectacular. The only thing you know for sure is that it’s going to be hot.”
Burns still holds out hope for another World Cup in the U.S. with plenty of time to sort out another bid for either 2026 or 2030.
“I’m still optimistic that, although it’s [a World Cup in the U.S.A.] not ‘18 or ‘22 and there are obviously going to be other World Cups after that, whether it’s 2026 or 2030, the U.S. will be considered and selected in the next go around,” said Burns.
He has a feeling the sport of soccer won’t fade away, and the next generation of great soccer stars will emerge for the time when the U.S. once again hosts the world’s biggest sporting event.
“Hopefully it’s 2026 or 2030 that the U.S. will again be selected. 2022 would have been 12 years out, and now we are talking 16 years out,” says Burns. “So, there are still kids around just starting to kick soccer balls here that are hopefully going to be members of those World Cup teams.”
Kevin Koczwara can be reached at Kevin.Koczwara@thesoccerguysonline.com.