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World Cup

The World Cup and its possible infrastructure effects

Assuming Houston does get to be a host city for the 2026 FIFA World Cup, that could spur some major projects, for transportation and recreation and who knows what else.

Houston will not receive final word on the bid until 2020 or 2021, but officials remain optimistic the city is a strong competitor for what could be six to eight American cities, each hosting five or six matches over 30 days. That means weeks of hotel stays, restaurant and bar sales and other expenses for visitors.

Ultimately, that could pay off with long-term projects in Houston. Part of the city’s pitch to selectors is use of a new green space east of the George R. Brown Convention Center, a long-sought cap for Texas Department of Transportation’s plans for a redesigned and buried Interstate 45. Though TxDOT plans to spend $7 billion redesigning and widening the freeway, it cannot spend federal or state highway money on park space capping the buried sections.

A local World Cup committee, however, could focus on fundraising and organize and plan a park, [Doug Hall, vice-president of special projects for the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority,] said.

“The World Cup Local Organizing Committee would help raise funds for such a legacy project if it becomes a final part of the plan,” Hall said in January when officials were finalizing the city’s bid. “The Sports Authority’s tax funds can only be used on voter-approved projects and all monies are currently pledged to the existing sports stadiums.”

[…]

Only the spot along the convention center has been mentioned as a possible legacy project of a World Cup hosting. Preparations for the World Cup coming to Houston would also include numerous other upgrades and close coordination with Metro because public transit would be crucial to any events.

Metro and local organizers are already discussing some alternatives, officials said, though it will be years before final plans are prepared. In preliminary discussions, Metro has said transporting around half of the 75,000 people expected to attend soccer matches at NRG Park will require extensive bus service, along with possibly running light rail vehicles in couplings of three, as opposed to the typical two vehicles per trip.

Metro is also researching with NRG Park officials a more permanent redesign of its rail stop near NRG Park to provide shelter and possibly seating for passengers as they wait in sometimes long lines as trains depart after events packed to capacity. During major events such as Houston Texans football games and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, riders can sometimes wait 30 minutes or more for room on the train.

Some transit officials during a January discussion said a World Cup event could also spur additional coordination with the city about dedicated bus lanes in more parts of Houston, and perhaps even more.

“I am thinking that would require additional light rail,” Metro board member Troi Taylor said of the potential deluge of visitors for the World Cup.

We’re far enough out from 2026 that anything Metro might propose for the 2019 referendum could be completed by then, though anything that would require federal funds would be up against some very tight deadlines. I suppose work could be mostly done on I-45 by then as well, though I wouldn’t want to bet on that. It’s hard to know without knowing what the specific plans may be, but for sure we should be talking about it now, and working to build consensus for what we can. Anything that develops into a big political fight is a lot less likely to get done.

Here comes the FIFA World Cup

Three cheers for the three nations.

In a long-anticipated vote on Wednesday, the joint bid of the U.S., Mexico and Canada defeated Morocco, its only challenger, as 200 national soccer federations cast their ballots to cap FIFA’s annual Congress.

The three-nation bid captured 134 votes, with Morocco earning 65 from the panel and only Lebanon choosing neither option.

“This is an incredible, and incredibly important, moment for soccer in North America and beyond,” said Carlos Cordeiro, the president of U.S. Soccer.

The 2026 tournament will feature an expanded field of 48 teams — as opposed to recent editions having 32 — and will mark the first time in FIFA’s history that a three-nation bid has been awarded the showpiece event.

The joint bid’s plans call for 60 of the 80 games to be played in the United States — including all matches from the quarterfinals onward — while Canada and Mexico host 10 apiece. The final is expected to be played at MetLife Stadium, just outside New York.

See here and here for the background. I had previously said that if Three Nations won the bid that Houston would get to be a host city, but that’s not quite true, as this story notes:

In an agreement announced when the bid launched last year, the United States will stage 60 of the 80 matches, including all from the quarterfinals on, while Mexico and Canada will get 10 apiece. Twenty-three cities, including Washington and Baltimore, are in the running to become the 16 match venues. In all likelihood, 11 of the 17 proposed U.S. sites will make the cut. A decision is not expected for another two years.

[…]

Mexican venues under consideration are Monterrey, Guadalajara and Mexico City. Canada narrowed its list to Montreal, Toronto and Edmonton.

The U.S. metro areas in the running are Atlanta (Mercedes-Benz Stadium), Baltimore (M&T Bank Stadium), Boston (Gillette Stadium), Cincinnati (Paul Brown Stadium), Dallas (AT&T Stadium), Denver (Sports Authority Field), Houston (NRG Stadium), Kansas City (Arrowhead Stadium), Los Angeles (Rose Bowl and the new NFL stadium), Miami (Hard Rock Stadium), Nashville (Nissan Stadium), New York (MetLife Stadium), Orlando (Camping World Stadium), Philadelphia (Lincoln Financial Field), San Jose (Levi’s Stadium), Seattle (Century Link Field) and Washington (FedEx Field).

Given Houston’s track record with Super Bowls and Final Fours, not to mention international friendly soccer matches, I feel good about our chances, but there are no guarantees. In the meantime, US Soccer is involved in a bid for the 2027 Women’s World Cup as well, so who knows, maybe we’ll get a twofer. Slate and ThinkProgress have more.

Houston makes final cut for FIFA 2026 bid

Now it’s up to FIFA.

The Houston Dynamos might have to make some room: Space City has been included in the bid to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

On Thursday, officials announced that Houston is one of 23 cities that are a part of the “United Bid,” a joint bid by Canada, Mexico and the U.S. to host the World Cup.

If the bid is successful, Houston could see international teams battling it out at NRG Stadium.

“Canada, Mexico, and the United States have joined together to deliver a United Bid that offers FIFA and its member associations the power of unity, the promise of certainty, and the potential of extraordinary opportunity,” John Kristick, Executive Director of the United Bid said in a news release.

See here for the background. The original list had 49 venues in 44 cities, so it was about fifty-fifty for Houston to make the cut. At this point, if United Bid wins, we’re in. I’ll definitely buy some tickets if we do. US Soccer has more.

Houston part of bid for 2026 FIFA World Cup

Nice.

Houston and NRG Stadium are on an official list for cities and venues that may be considered to host a FIFA World Cup match if the event comes to North America in 2026.

The United Bid Committee of the United States, Mexico and Canada began its outreach for cities to declare interest to serve as a host city by sending Requests for Information to 44 cities throughout the continent.

The list is comprised of 49 stadiums in and around 44 cities that will be considered for inclusion in the official bid that will be sent to FIFA by March 16, 2018.

The list includes 37 stadiums in 34 U.S. cities. Other Texas stadiums are the Cotton Bowl, AT&T Stadium and the Alamodome.

[…]

After cities declare their interest, the UBC will review the submissions and will issue a short list of cities by late September. The UBC will then provide more detailed bid documentation to the cities and conduct meetings to discuss questions as candidate cities prepare their final bid, which is due in early January.

The UBC plans to include 20-25 venues in its final bid to FIFA.

See here for a list of potential host cities and stadia. Basically, for NRG to get one or more games, we would have to make the cut for the final bid, which looks like a strong bet at this time, and then the North America contingent would have to be awarded the event by FIFA; Morocco is the other bidder in competition. The 2026 Cup is the first one with the expanded 48-team field, so there will be more games to be played. FIFA will make its announcement around the time of the 2018 Cup.

FIFA may face up to reality

The world of international soccer may finally adopt technology to help officiate its games.

The most powerful man in soccer called goal-line technology a “necessity” Wednesday, only hours after Ukraine was denied what appeared to be a legitimate goal in its must-win match against England at the European Championship.

“After last night’s match GLT is no longer an alternative but a necessity,” FIFA President Sepp Blatter wrote on Twitter.

Marko Devic’s shot in the 62nd minute of Tuesday’s match looped up off England goalkeeper Joe Hart and appeared to cross the goal line before it was cleared by defender John Terry. The official standing near the post didn’t signal for a goal, leaving the referee no option but to play on.

If the goal had been awarded, Ukraine would have pulled even at 1-1. But the co-hosts instead lost 1-0, a result that eliminated them from the tournament.

[…]

UEFA is using Euro 2012 to trial the five-official system that features a referee, two linesmen and two additional assistants beside the goal. It’s UEFA President Michel Platini’s preferred alternative to goal-line technology.

FIFA will decide on July 5 whether to approve the five-official system and either of the two goal-line technology systems currently being tested in England and Denmark.

Speaking at a media briefing in Warsaw on Monday, Platini said he expects goal-line technology to be approved at the IFAB meeting.

“Yes, Blatter will do it,” Platini said. “He will (introduce) the technology, but I think it’s a big mistake. … it’s the beginning of the technology, the arrival of the technology.”

Grant Wahl discusses the significance.

I don’t want to get bogged down in the particular side-details surrounding the call in this game. Yes, there was karmic justice, since the assistant referee also missed a Ukrainian offside in the build-up. And yes, it’s unfair to say that the goal-line mistake robbed the Ukrainians of a victory they needed to advance, since they would only have tied the game at 1-1. (At the same time, it’s also fair to say that the game at 1-1 would have been different.)

But don’t take your eye off what matters most: In one of the sport’s showpiece events, the ball crossed the line entirely and was not ruled a goal.

The exact same thing happened at World Cup 2010, when England’s Frank Lampard was robbed of a goal that clearly crossed the line against Germany. Even worse, Ukraine’s phantom “goal” happened with that additional assistant referee on the line.

You can see video of the play here; the English announcers admit the ball is clearly over the line, and reference the 2010 World Cup non-goal England scored as karmic balance. I was home for a couple of days last week after a minor medical procedure, and thankfully had the UEFA championships to help pass the time during the day when I couldn’t do much more than occupy the couch. I didn’t see this game, but I still feel invested in the result. As a proponent of instant replay in soccer and other sports, I applaud this development. I have never understood the attitude of people like Michel Platini, who prefer to let games be decided by fate rather than by what actually happened on the field of play. In almost any other context, when one is incontrovertibly shown to have erred, the normal reaction most of us have is “What can I do to ensure I don’t make that same mistake again?” Unless you’re a sports league president or the like, in which case you blather on about the “human element” and how it’s better to be failed by human officials than given a correct ruling by technological means. I just don’t understand the mindset.

Anyway. As Wahl notes, despite Blatter’s statement this is not a done deal. Adoption of goal line technology will require six out of eight votes at the International Football Association Board (IFAB), and it’s always possible there are enough reactionaries there to hinder progress. But whatever happens there, it seems that an important step forward has been taken. It’s getting a lot harder to stick your head in the sand about the technology that’s available and the need for it.

Saturday video break: The only thing that was missing

Surely you’ve seen Abby Wambach’s amazing last-minute goal that enabled the US Women’s National Team to come back against Brazil:

It was called the most dramatic goal in World Cup history, topping Landon Donovan’s last-minute goal last year against Algeria. It must be noted, however, that the Donovan goal had one thing that the Wambach goal did not: A call by Andres Cantor:

Go here if you want a translation, as if one were needed. I love Ian Darke’s play by play, but some things just can’t be replicated. I mean, with all due respect, this wouldn’t work with Ian Darke:

I think he needs to give MLB a try. Imagine a Cantor-McCarver pairing in the booth. How awesome would that be?

No World Cup for you!

Bummer.

In a mild upset, tiny but oil-rich Qatar was awarded the 2022 FIFA World Cup only a few minutes after Russia was awarded the 2018 bid in a process that was decided by a vote of FIFA’s 22-member executive committee today in Zurich.

[…]

The Go Houston Bid Committee held a private viewing breakfast at the George R. Brown so top city and county leaders could watch the announcement’s broadcast together with some of Houston’s top soccer officials and backers.

“There’s 17 other U.S. cities that are as disappointed as we are,” said Robert Dale Morgan of the Houston Bid Committee. “I think the U.S. bid committee did an outstanding job. Whenever you bid on something of this magnitude you know the competition is going to be stiff.”

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett and District I councilman James Rodriguez, two supporters of the city and county’s decision to help the Dynamo build their new stadium on the East End, attended the viewing party.

Both were visibly dejected.

“I’m disappointed that the U.S. will not host the 2022 FIFA World Cup,” Rodriguez said. “Our country would have put on an amazing World Cup. Many thanks to our local World Cup Bid Committee for all of their efforts.”

Emmett, whose children played soccer growing up, vows to continue to help further soccer’s growth in Harris County.

“It’s a major disappointment because I thought the U.S. bid was very strong,” Emmett said. “And locally it would have really benefited us a great deal. The soccer community is ready for it. By 2022, just think about that, that’s 12 years from now and how much more soccer we would have going on in this community. Now I think all we can do is accept the decision, take the energy that we have for soccer here locally and channel it.”

Qatar is apparently going to spend a ton of money on stadia and infrastructure, including solar-powered air conditioners to battle the 120 degree summer heat. I wish them the best of luck. In the meantime, it may be awhile before the US gets another shot at this.

China is already tabbed as the front-runner to host in 2026, and the tournament would be expected back in Europe for 2030. There is no timeline for those decisions.

That’s a little too far into the future for me. Anyone know where the post-2011 Women’s World Cup events will be? I couldn’t find an answer via Google.

World Cup locale decision time

We’ll know by tomorrow if Houston is still in the running to host the World Cup in 2022.

Houston’s soccer, business and political communities will join the rest of the international soccer community in anticipation as FIFA announces the host nations for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup on Thursday in Zurich, Switzerland. Former President Bill Clinton, one of many powerful members of the Go USA Bid Committee, will travel to Switzerland to speak on behalf of the United States during the final presentation as an honorary chairman of the bid committee.

[…]

A decision Thursday in favor of the United States would not automatically benefit Houston. A timetable hasn’t been set for winnowing the list of 18 U.S. cities in contention to host matches to between 10 and 12. But representatives of Houston are excited.

As far as infrastructure costs, Houston won’t have many, considering Reliant Stadium is set for major international sporting events, as evidenced when it held the 2004 Super Bowl. The 2011 NCAA Final Four is also set for Reliant.

U.S. bid committee members maintain that serving as a World Cup host city has an impact similar to hosting a Super Bowl.

Houston’s odds of serving as a host city appear high considering it was among the select cities U.S. Soccer presented to the FIFA inspection committee in September.

Obviously, the US has to be chosen as the host country, or the rest is moot. If that happens, then you have to like Houston’s chances, though of course anything can happen. I’m rooting for it to happen.

We can’t discuss an event like this without discussing economic projections:

Billions of dollars in revenue are at stake for U.S. Soccer. Moreover, according to an independent economic study cited often by the local bid committee, host cities would take in between $400 million and $600 million.

[…]

The stakes in Houston could be greater than $600 million if — along with Reliant Stadium’s hosting matches – the George R. Brown Convention Center were chosen for the international broadcast center. That would mean media from throughout the world would set up shop downtown for more than a month.

“When you look at it, the economics of an event of this magnitude are obviously tremendous,” said Robert Dale Morgan of the Houston Bid Committee. “But what it also presents to us is an opportunity to be in the eyes of the world. Houston is known internationally in many business circles. This would provide us yet another platform to be on the world stage.”

You know how I feel about these oft-cited but seldom-checked-after-the-fact studies. Having said that, I would expect the host city to get a pretty good boost from the event, just from the sheer number of visitors staying here for a couple of weeks. The 2010 event ran for a month, from the start of group play until the finals. Lots of people are going to need lots of hotel rooms, rental cars, places to eat, and so on. Maybe we’ll even have another light rail line or two built by then. Keep your fingers crossed.

There may be hope for FIFA yet

Maybe. We’ll see. But it’s a start.

With pressure for video replay mounting after two blatant missed calls at the World Cup, FIFA president Sepp Blatter said soccer’s governing body will reopen the issue after the tournament.

Blatter said Tuesday that FIFA deplores “when you see the evidence of refereeing mistakes.” It would be “a nonsense” not to consider changes, he said.

He still doesn’t think a replay implementation would have done anything about the Argentine offsides goal against Mexico. I say that’s a tautology. A setup in which a booth official is empowered to view replays and intercede as needed would have nullified the goal, and a setup that lacks that feature would not have done so. But at least he’s willing to consider using some form of replay. I note with interest that FIFPro, the group that represents pro players worldwide, favors replay. As long as there’s pressure, there’s hope.

Tell me again why there can’t be instant replay in soccer?

Item one, Frank Lampard’s disallowed goal for England against Germany:

Note how utterly out of position the official’s assistant was for this. Seems to me that if you’re going to have a camera in the goal, you may as well use it. As they say in that ESPN clip, FIFA refs are already using technology to communicate with their assistants. And hell, hockey has used cameras to validate goals for a million years now. What is the problem with this?

Item two, Argentina’s offsides goal against Mexico:

ESPN video is here, and a clear view of Tevez heading the ball in, which I hadn’t noticed at first viewing, is here.

All of this is without taking into consideration the well-known bad calls that affected Team USA. None of this is gray zone, subject to interpretation stuff. These two non-calls today are as clear as you could want, and would have been trivially corrected with any halfway decent instant replay implementation. The debate about this is over. The technology exists. It won’t get everything right, but it will sure as hell get a lot more of it right than what we’re getting now. Hiding behind platitudes about the “human element” is little more than nihilism. Allowing obviously bad calls to stand because there is no mechanism to deal with them is the antithesis of letting the players decide the outcome. It’s well past time that every sport recognized that and took whatever steps they can to integrate technology into their officiating.

Don’t play ball with the state of Arizona

What Kevin Blackistone says.

About 10 years ago, the NCAA made one of its most bold and upright decisions: it refused to allow any more of its postseason tournaments, like March Madness, to be held in South Carolina until the state stopped flying the banner of the long defeated racist Confederacy in the face of 21st century societal progress.

NCAA spokesman Bob Williams explained at the time that the organization wanted to “ensure that our championships are free from any type of symbolism that might make someone uncomfortable based on their race.”

As such, it is time for the governors of college athletics to expand their postseason ban. Arizona should be next, immediately.

The University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., should lose the BCS National Championship Game scheduled to be played there next January unless Arizona legislators rescind soon and for good an anti-immigration law they just passed that gives police the right to stop and search for documents anyone police suspect of being in the country illegally.

After all, that law means racially profiling people who appear to be Hispanic, no matter what Arizona lawmakers claim. That means making an entire group of people, as the NCAA spokesman said, uncomfortable in Arizona because of their heritage. That’s unquestionably wrong.

In my previous post, I mentioned former Arizona Governor (and world class bozo) Evan Mecham, whose racist antics cost his state a Super Bowl, among other things. Evan Weiner recalls that, and notes that there are other sporting events that may – ought to – be yanked until the Arizona Lege makes amends.

The Glendale, Arizona stadium, that is the home to the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals and hosted the 2008 Super Bowl, is one of the 18 cities that has been proposed for use by USA Bid Committee in an effort to win the FIFA World Cup in either 2018 or 2022.

Houston is on that list as well, with the Dynamo ownership being on the USA Bid Committee. Note to local activists: Why not put a little pressure on the Dynamo to raise a stink about this? If there’s going to be any real blowback against Arizona for this bit foolishness, it’s got to come from the grassroots, and this is a good entry point. Here’s their contact info:

HOUSTON DYNAMO FRONT OFFICE

1001 Avenida de las Americas, Ste. 200
Houston, TX 77010

Phone: (713) 276-7500
Fax: (713) 276-7572
E-mail: info@houstondynamo.com

Twitter
Facebook

Let them know, politely, that you don’t want any Arizona city included on the USA Bid Committee’s list for the FIFA World Cup, and that you would like the Dynamo to take a stand on the matter. If you’re a Dynamo fan, especially if you’re a season ticket holder, make sure they know that as well. They have an interest in keeping their fans happy. Obviously, the Dynamo haven’t done anything wrong, but this is how stuff gets done.

And Astros fans can get involved, too.

Major League Baseball is set to hold its 2011 All-Star Game in Phoenix, where the Diamondbacks play, and activists are calling on MLB to pull the game out of Arizona in protest of the new law. The idea is being espoused by activist bloggers at Daily Kos and Change.org, hosting a petition on its website to move the All-Star Game out of Arizona.

Some are calling on baseball fans to boycott at least one MLB game. A Facebook group is specifically calling on fans to boycott the Arizona Diamondbacks’ May 7 home game against the Milwaukee Brewers. The group wants the D-Backs to state a position on the new law.

There’s hashtag, #AZMLBB, being used on Twitter for discussion of this movement.

Unfortunately, the Astros do not display Contact information as prominently as the Dynamo do, so you may have to figure out the best way to let them know how you feel yourselves. They’re on Facebook here. As with the Dynamo, they too will want to keep their fans happy. Stace has more.

World Cup bid update

Houston will be on the short list of cities to be included in America’s bid to host the World Cup. As reported last week:

The USA Bid Committee will conclude its eight-month host city selection process by unveiling the list of 18 cities to be included in the bid Tuesday. The bid is due to FIFA by May 14, and soccer’s world governing body will announce the winning bids in December.

Houston bid committee members, which include public and private entities, like the city’s chances of making the cut.

The list is now out, and Houston is on it. Among those not making the cut were Chicago and San Francisco. FIFA’s rules allow for a max of 12 stadia to be selected, though the US is pushing for that to be increased to 14. Either way, if the American bid advances further, another winnowing will need to be done. More here and here. The bid is for either 2018 or 2022. If it were to be held here, it would be at Reliant Stadium.

Vote to bring the World Cup to Houston

Bored with the Mayor’s race? Here’s something else you can vote on.

As the USA Bid Committee puts together a proposal for the United States to host the 2018 or 2022 World Cup to present to FIFA next year, it is asking aspiring host cities to rally their citizens around the cause via online voting.

As one of 27 hopefuls, Houston and Harris County aren’t wasting any time, with the Houston Bid Committee launching a campaign to have citizens and fans show support for the city and Reliant Stadium hosting World Cup games by voting at www.gousabid.com/HOUSTON.

[…]

Final bids are due to FIFA by May 14, 2010, and the sport’s governing body will announce the host countries for the 2018 and 2022 editions in December 2010.

The USA Bid Committee’s bid will include 20 host cities/venues. Starting next month, the committee will meet with representatives from candidate cities/venues.

If the United States is awarded a World Cup, the number likely will be reduced to 12-14 cities/venues. The voting will help the USA Bid Committee gauge support.

“It’s important because every city and county and region needs to show its support,” said Chris Keeney, general manager of Lone Star Sports and Entertainment, a member of the Houston Bid Committee. “Is it the only thing that matters? No, but it’s kind of like an All-Star vote, where the fans also have a vote. And it’s also important to spread the word.”

I think a World Cup in Houston would be awesome. If you think so, too, go vote to help make it happen.

The World Cup in Houston?

This would be very cool.

As they prepare to host CONCACAF Gold Cup matches at Reliant Stadium for a third consecutive tournament edition July 9, the folks at Lone Star Sports and Entertainment are busy thinking big — really big.

“We want to bring the World Cup to Houston,” Chris Keeney, LSSE’s general manager, said Friday.

You read right. The World Cup. The biggest, most watched sporting event on the planet.

The United States Soccer Federation has expressed its desire to host the 2018 or 2022 World Cup.

Heck, I’d put down a deposit on tickets today for this, and I’m not even that much of a soccer fan. I think this would generate quite a bit of excitement locally.

An official declaration of interest has been submitted to FIFA, the sport’s governing body, and U.S. Soccer has until May 2010 to submit all paperwork related to its bid.

FIFA plans to award the tournaments by December of that year.

[…]

U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati is optimistic about the United States’ chances.

“We are confident we can put together a successful bid to host another impressive event,” he said last month, making reference to the 1994 World Cup, which the United States hosted to unprecedented success.

Keeney believes Houston and Reliant Stadium have a strong case to be one of 10-12 host cities, should the U.S. bid prove successful.

There would be a lot of competition, but I too think that if the US bid is accepted, Houston and Reliant would be on the short list. Reliant is a perfectly fine venue for these events, there would be a ton of local interest, and Houston is easy to fly to from anywhere in the world. Good luck to everyone involved in this effort.