Gridiron pitches proposed as venues if the United States is awarded the 2018 or 2022 World Cup can be widened to meet FIFA’s standards, US Soccer President Sunil Gulati said Friday.
A day after a FIFA delegation concluded its three-day, five-city inspection tour, Gulati said he had assured global football’s governing body that the narrower fields used by most NFL stadiums could be reconfigured to conform to the 64m-75m width that FIFA guidelines specify for international matches.
In the 1994 World Cup hosted by the United States, some matches were played on pitches slightly narrower than FIFA prefers.
“We’ve assured them that we will get to FIFA international dimensions – and in a cost-effective way,” Gulati said in a conference call. “And, if for any reason that was an issue, we have alternatives.”
Gulati described the FIFA inspectors’ visit as a “very successful trip.”
The inspectors, led by Chilean federation president Harold Mayne-Nicholls, visited New York, the White House, Miami and Dallas before concluding the tour at Reliant Stadium in Houston.
“All the stadiums we have visited, with some very small adjustments, would be great World Cup venues,” Mayne-Nicholls said on Thursday. “There is no doubt about that.
“We have seen a number of excellent locations. All requirements and expectations should be met.”
Gulati, who also heads the US bid committee, said America’s track record of hosting big events – including the 1994 World Cup that drew a record 3.6 million in attendance – is a advantage.
During the tour he addressed other areas of concern with the FIFA inspectors.
“We did have some private conversations on things that I thought we could make improvements in,” Gulati said. “We had a frank discussion about government guarantees, those sorts of issues.
“Security is an issue for everyone and that’s true for any major international event. But I think they recognize that we’ve dealt with all of those issues, whether it was during the previous World Cup, whether it’s in our Olympic proposals, certainly in this bid proposal or in events that happen all of the time.
“When you can show them an NFL stadium that has 70 or 80,000 people in it eight to 10 times a year, plus playoffs in certain cases, I think that’s a pretty good starting point,” Gulati said.
FIFA’s executive committee votes on the hosts of both tournaments on December 2.
The United States, like many of the candidates, is officially bidding for either World Cup.
But Gulati acknowledged that Europe seems to have the inside track on 2018.
Although the issue didn’t arrise during the inspection tour, Gulati said the United States would consider from withdrawing from the 2018 race if FIFA President Sepp Blatter or UEFA President Michel Platini requested it.
“I acknowledge, and we have really from the beginning, that there is a sentiment with a number of members of (FIFA’s executive committee) that 2018 should be in Europe,” Gulati said.
“If at some point between now and December 2 we think it’s in our best interest to (withdraw), after consultation with the FIFA president or the UEFA president, then we would make that decision.”
Countries currently bidding to host the 2018 event are the United States, England, Russia, Spain-Portugal and Belgium-Netherlands.
Bids for 2022 have been received from Australia, England, the Belgium-Netherlands, Japan, South Korea, Qatar, Russia, Spain-Portugal and the United States.
The next World Cup will take place in Brazil in 2014.
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