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Obama Throws Support Behind US World Cup Bid

President Writes Letter to FIFA Prez

April 15, 2009

NEW YORK – US Soccer has another supporter in its bid to host the World Cup – President Barack Obama.

Obama reached out to FIFA this week, writing a letter to Joseph Blatter, the President of the world’s governing body of soccer, in which he noted the role soccer played in his life as a youth, and its ability to unite people, communities and nations from every continent.

“Hosting another successful World Cup is important for the continued growth of the sport in the United States. And it is important to me personally,” President Obama wrote in his letter. “As a child, I played soccer on a dirt road in Jakarta, and the game brought the children of my neighborhood together. As a father, I saw that same spirit of unity alive on the fields and sidelines of my own daughters’ soccer games in Chicago.”

US Soccer, which also boasts former U.S. Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger as a committee member, has been trying to secure either the 2018 or 2022 World Cup. This Friday, April 17, is the deadline for stadiums and potential host cities to inform the USA Bid Committee of their interest in playing host to FIFA World Cup matches in 2018 or 2022.

“Soccer is truly the world’s sport, and the World Cup promotes camaraderie and friendly competition across the globe,” President Obama said. “That is why this bid is about much more than a game. It is about the United States of America inviting the world to gather all across our great country in celebration of our common hopes and dreams.”

The USA Bid Committee last week mailed letters to 70 stadium operators in a first step toward preparing a formal bid.

“We are pleased to have the support of President Obama as we look to bring the FIFA World Cup to the United States,” said US Soccer President Sunil Gulati. “With the President’s support, our goal of bringing the global community here to watch the largest sporting event in the world in 2018 or 2022 will no doubt be strengthened. We look forward to working with the White House as we continue to develop our bid for the World Cup.”

The United States, Australia, England, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico and Russia have formally declared their desire to host to the FIFA World Cup in 2018 or 2022. Netherlands-Belgium and Portugal-Spain have each submitted joint bids for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments, while Qatar and South Korea have applied as candidates to play host only to the tournament in 2022.

FIFA has set May 2010 as the deadline for countries to submit their final paperwork to play host to the 2018 or 2022 events. FIFA’s 24 member Executive Committee will then study the bids, conduct site visits and name the two hosts for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments in December 2010, completing a 21-month bid and review process.

In 1994, nine U.S. stadiums were used when the United States played host to FIFA World Cup, which then featured a 24-team and 52-match format compared to today’s field of 32 nations competing in 64 matches.

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