Chicago denied opportunity to host World Cup matches


> And having answered so I turn once more to those who sneer at this my city, and I give them back the sneer and say to them:

> Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.

> - Carl Sandburg, from his poem "Chicago"

I went to three international games at Soldier Field this summer. I was there for the US's thrilling 2-1 qualifier win over Honduras. I was there for the US's 2-0 Gold Cup Semifinal victory over Honduras. And I was there for Mexico's penalty kick victory over Costa Rica, again in the Gold Cup Semis.

Reflecting on those games, one thing stands out: the great atmospheres. Never before had I been to a soccer game with 60,000+ in attendance. Never before had I been to a group of matches that were so loud. Never before had I seen fans of four countries come together in one night to pack a stadium to its rafters in order to cheer on their homeland. Those nights made me proud to live in Chicago. Proud that our city was leading the way for all that was right about hosting international soccer events in the United States. So when I received the announcement last night that the USA Bid Committee had finalized its list of potential host cities for its bids for the 2018 or 2022 World Cups, I fully expected Chicago -- the nation's third largest media market and home to the US Soccer Federation -- to be on the list. I was rudely awakened when I found, [after following the link to the USA Bid Committee's website](, that it wasn't.

My first thought was disbelief. Call it an extreme case of civic pride, but I honestly thought that the website was wrong. I mean, how could the Bid Committee possibly exclude Chicago, one of the largest and most diverse cities in the entire nation? It had to be a mistake. But after reading through the list of potential bid cities again (a list that includes natural soccer hotbeds Indianapolis and Kansas City...) I was able to get it through my head that Chicago hadn't made the list.

But why?

At first I figured that the USA Bid Committee had made a completely boneheaded decision. But after a quick search around the internet for some answers, I came across [Pitch Invasion's report that Mayor Daley -- after spending $50 million on a failed Olympic bid -- put together an extremely weak proposal to host World Cup games]( The Bid Committee clearly thought that Chicago's proposal -- which FIFA would have seen prior to their selection of a host country -- wasn't good enough and acted accordingly.

In the end, it's a tremendous shame. The city has the stadium. Has a population that is interested in soccer. Has the transportation. Has the hotels. Has everything a Bid Committee could want in a potential host city. Everything except a good sales pitch.

But good pitch or bad pitch, I'm still confused as to why Chicago wasn't selected. I don't have answers as to why the committee thought that putting the country's 38th (Nashville) and 33rd (Indianapolis) largest markets ahead of Chicago makes sense. Was Chicago's bid really that bad? Was there something else going on here? Will we ever know?

But in the end, all those questions serve to do is mask the stark reality handed to us on Tuesday; Chicago, our city of broad shoulders, won't host a World Cup match if the U.S. is selected to host the tournament in 2018 or 2022. I don't know about you all, but I'm certainly giving "them back the sneer."

*Note -- I'll be back later on in the day with an update or two on the Fire. Be sure to check back for them.*


Leave a comment
  • I cant believe this! I am seriously at a loss for words...

  • I understand that Chicago was 'fatigued' by the failed Olympic bid, but talk about shooting yourself in the foot! The WC is arguably bigger than the Olympics and we (the US) had a better chance of actually getting this. Mr. Gulati should be embarrassed and FIFA should not even consider the US bid with such markets as SF and Chicago absent. I emailed the "Bid is in US" campaign and asked them to remove my name from their petition. I would rather go to the UK to watch the matches than to Nashville.

  • Sam,
    If Chicago's sales pitch was so weak, why wasn't U.S. Soccer doing a better job of overseeing that plan? (Don't they play that role?) They can't be more than a few El stops from city hall. What's the process for submitting a bid to U.S. Soccer?

    Did U.S. Soccer let a major market slip through the cracks? Is it a just a lack of will on the city's part? Can someone comment on that?

    I can only guess that U.S. Soccer sees chances to seed the game in new markets (which, we would all agree, is a great thing for our sport). But the number of monstrous, television-friendly NFL domes (Indy, Phoenix, Dallas, Atlanta) also looms as an unfortunate choice for soccer if the World Cup comes back the U.S.

    - David

  • In reply to dnklatt:

    Unfortunately I don't really have answers for any of your questions. I went off the report from Pitch Invasion that cited sources that called the plan from Chicago very weak. I'll try and get some more specifics on this topic in the next couple of days.

  • In reply to dnklatt:

    Indy, Phoenix , Houston and Dallas all have a retractable roof. Atlanta is the only stadium that is a dome.

  • In reply to dnklatt:

    Ok, if it's just about size then let's remove New York (82,000) and replace them with Ann Arbor (106,000). There. Does that make sense? Hell no. As David pointed out, what difference does it make how shabby our "bid" was, it's their bid to FIFA that matters, and they should have the sense to put together a decent bid. NYC, LA & Chi are automatic or the US bid is a joke.

  • In reply to dnklatt:

    Even if there were other reasons, Gulati cited the SF capacity (61,000) as the main issue, saying "It would have been by about 10 percent the smallest stadium." I think I saw a note that the average size stadium for the remaining cities is about 78K. In '94, I saw the Germany/Belgium game in a 4/5 full SF (at 66K seats). I also remember some article stating that FIFA, on the one hand, was rather concerned about empty seats in '94, but that because our stadiums were so much larger, on average, than euro stadiums, they still had the best-attended WC ever (to that point). Correct me if I'm wrong. Anyway, they presumably think that the US will be soccer-crazy enough by '18 or '22 to fill stadiums at an average of 78K over the whole duration of the tournament? Guess they must. Oh...avg. attendance in '94 was 68K:

  • In reply to dgbill:

    To bolster this view, links to a article that states:

    "The list of stadiums remaining is impressive and unmatched by any country in the world (Los Angeles, Dallas and Seattle have two potential facilities). The smallest is San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium, which seats 67,700 and is larger than all but Wembley and Old Trafford in England, the Camp Nou and Bernabeu in Spain, Luzhniki in Russia and Melbourne Cricket Ground and ANZ Stadium in Australia."

    There may be other factors, but stadium size does seem to be a big one.

  • It comes down to size. Soldier Field is the smallest NFL stadium and it is pretty much brand new. If FIFA would see all the cities bid tapes and ours is that bad, I would rather have the WC in the states without Chicago than not have it in the states at all. No matter where the WC is the games will sell out. So why not put it in the big stadiums. If its between KC (77,000) and Chicago (61,500) its going to be KC because of the money.

Leave a comment