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June 13, 2014 at 6:20 AM

Bring the World Cup to Seattle

If the World Cup comes to the U.S., “a significant portion of it would be in Seattle.”

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Imagine World Cup at CenturyLink Field. (John Lok / Seattle Times)

That’s the promise of Ralph Morton of the Seattle Sports Commission, who helped put together the U.S.’s runner-up bid for the 2022 cup. He was talking about a potential bid for 2026.

But by day, it looks like the 2022 cup may be back in play.
The vice president of FIFA, which awards the cup, told BBC last week he’d favor re-opening the 2022 bids if allegations against host country Qatar hold up. They’re looking solid. The Sunday Times reported (great headline: “Plot to Buy the World Cup”) that soccer officials took over $5 million in bribes. An estimated 1,200 workers have died under repressive labor laws. Qatar’s summer heat is unplayable, and it executes gays and lesbians.

Even FIFA’s oily president Sepp Blatter, the Donald Trump of soccer, admits awarding Qatar the 2022 World Cup was a mistake. “Yes, it was a mistake of course, but one makes lots of mistakes in life,” he has said.

The drumbeat of scandal prompted this headline in The San Francisco Chronicle this week: “Hey, FIFA, move the 2022 World Cup to the U.S.”

Yes to that. The U.S.’s 2022 World Cup bid was a slick, well-engineered effort to return the event to America for the first time since 1994. Unlike Brazil, the stadiums are built. Infrastructure is in place. Best of all, Seattle’s CenturyLink Field was one of 18 proposed sites which met all the requirements.

I asked Morton, who was at the U.S. Open in Pinehurst, N.C., about the renewed interest in the 2022 cup. He was diplomatic. “2022 has been awarded, and it’s FIFA’s role to worry about that,” said Morton. “Right now, everyone is focused on 2026.”

Seattle’s star turn as “the epicenter of professional soccer” in the U.S. helps elevate it to an obvious site for cup matches, Morton said. CenturyLink isn’t big enough for World Cup finals, but it would be the right spot for earlier rounds.

What would it take to dust off the 2022 bid? Morton said Seattle City Hall would have to get on board (Mayor Ed Murray told me during the campaign he supported a World Cup bid), and blocks of hotel rooms would have to be booked. But Morton suggested these were minor. “It’s all there,” he said.

“The city would get very excited” about hosting the World Cup, he said. Obviously.

It’s fun to dream about. But to make this reality, FIFA would have to acknowledge a bribery scandal and tear up its award to Qatar. And for the U.S. to re-bid, FIFA would have to change its bidding rules, U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati said last month.

That’s an understatement. Now, on to the matches.

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Comments | Topics: brazil, fifa, qatar

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