Soccer  > General Soccer  > FIFA team leaves "impressed" by U.S. stadia
September 10, 2010, 03:52 PM
NEW YORK - Stadia and other infrastructure were always thought to be a strength of the United States' bid for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

A day after the FIFA team inspecting prospective World Cup venues departed, that perception doesn't appear to have changed.

"It was a successful trip," U.S. Soccer Federation and U.S. bid chairman Sunil Gulati told reporters on a conference call Friday morning. "We showed them things they needed to see. It's impossible not to be impressed by some of the NFL stadiums we saw on this trip."

Gulati and his entourage escorted the six-man FIFA panel on a four-day, five-city tour that began Monday with its arrival. It showed off New Meadowlands Stadium and Red Bull Arena in the New York Area, FedEx Field outside Washington, Sun Life Stadium in Miami, Cowboys Stadium in Dallas and Reliant Stadium in Houston before the group returned to FIFA headquarters in Switzerland on Thursday.

"All five stadiums we have been able to visit, with very small adjustments, would be great World Cup venues. There is no doubt about that," said FIFA delegation head Harold Mayne-Nicholls, president of the Chilean Football Federation said upon his departure Thursday.

"We have been impressed by the standards of service and technology and we are happy to confirm that the recently built New Meadowlands Stadium and Cowboys Stadium are both truly outstanding venues capable of staging world-class events."

England, Russia and joint bids from the Netherlands and Belgium as well as Spain and Portugal are vying with the United States for the 2018 World Cup, while for the 2022 tournament, the Americans are competing against Australia, England, the Netherlands-Belgium, Japan, South Korea, Qatar, Russia and Spain-Portugal .

The FIFA team has visited all the World Cup want-to-be hosts except for Qatar, which is its next destination.

Making formal presentations before the 24-man FIFA Executive Committee - which will make the decision on both host countries December 2 - is the last step.

Published reports quoting FIFA President Sepp Blatter and others have indicated the Executive Committee is considering reserving the 2018 World Cup for a European country - which last staged the World Cup in 2006 in Germany, leaving the United States to vie for 2022.

Gulati has said his challenge in making the case for the United States lies largely in convincing the Executive Committee of the passion for soccer in the United States, not in the technical aspects of its bid. However, despite its infrastructure, even the U.S. bid had questions, such as field width in many U.S. stadiums due to the narrower needs of American football.

"Every bid has certain issues," Gulati said. "We obviously knew several NFL stadiums are not configured for FIFA standards. We did discuss that. All the venues can get to 75 yards, 68 meters. We assured them we will get to FIFA standards in a cost effective way.

"The advantages (to the U.S. bid) are obvious. We have 18 cities we've put forth, which gives us extraordinary flexibility. We have multiple cities to host the final. Not many other candidates have that."

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