The United States was awarded the rights to host the FIFA World Cup in 1994 after a lengthy bidding process. It was an audacious and risky decision at the time; this was before it became common for European countries to host these tournaments. There had been some previous discussion about whether staging such a high-profile sporting event would be wise so soon after the Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta, but in the end – America’s bid won out. For a country that has always prided itself on its love of sport, it seemed like a no-brainer. But there were challenges aplenty once things got underway. Looking back now, it's fair to say that hosting the World Cup has become one of those rare moments where history pivoted on an individual moment. Here are some insights into how that happened...
What the United States did to be ready for 1994
FIFA has strict guidelines that hosts must follow to be ready on time. Given the short turnaround, the U.S. had to scramble to be ready. The U.S. Soccer Federation, American Football Association, and Major League Soccer worked with FIFA to ensure that the following requirements were met:
- stadiums (9 venues across 9 cities)
- and the infrastructure to support them, including hotels and transportation
- hotels for visiting teams and media (Russian media alone numbered over 1,000)
- training facilities
- media and communication infrastructure The U.S. organizers had to build everything from scratch and, in some cases, retrofit existing structures.
How American lobbyists convinced FIFA to select the USA
The tournament's host nation has been selected by FIFA since the first World Cup in 1930 in Uruguay. The host nation for the 1994 World Cup had been due to be selected in July 1988 at FIFA's Executive Committee meeting in Tokyo. However, FIFA president João Havelange deferred the vote and instead announced that the decision would be made at the 41st FIFA Congress in June 1989 in Strasbourg. The United States' bid was initially backed by FIFA vice-president Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago who gave his support after being given a tour of the facilities by US 'bid ambassador' and former footballer Franz Beckenbauer. However, Warner changed his mind and switched his support to Brazil after receiving a $150,000 cash gift from the Brazilian Football Confederation, which was later intercepted by U.S. Customs and cleared of wrongdoing after an investigation. FIFA's executive committee has 23 members, 11 of whom had been there when the U.S. bid was made. The United States had to get eight votes and needed a shift of two from other places.
Preparations for the World Cup in America
The decision to pursue the hosting rights for the World Cup was a difficult one. Many expected the competition to be tough, and the U.S. initially missed out on the shortlist of nations bidding to host the tournament. However, later, Mexico withdrew from the bidding process, leaving only Brazil, Argentina, and the United States in the running for hosting rights for the 1994 World Cup. The United States soccer federation decided to go ahead with its plan to seek hosting rights for the World Cup. The federation hired American sports marketing company MATCH, Inc. as the bid consultant. The preparation for the World Cup in America began in July 1988 and lasted until May 1990 when the vote was held in Tokyo. The process included building stadiums and practice facilities, securing hotel rooms in host cities, expanding transportation infrastructure, and hiring thousands of new employees. For the stadiums, the federation used NFL stadiums since they can hold large crowds. The federation also built new soccer stadiums in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, and New York City. In other areas, the federation built facilities for practice fields, hotels for the teams, and the international broadcasting center. The federation also worked to expand transportation.
The Aftermath of Hosting the FIFA World Cup
The FIFA World Cup 1994 had a positive impact on the American soccer culture. An average of 90,983 people attended each game, breaking the record for the most attended sports event in the United States. The tournament also generated millions of dollars for the American economy. The tournament generated approximately $4.5 billion. The 1994 FIFA World Cup also resulted in a large increase in the number of people playing soccer in the United States. The tournament was a huge success for the American soccer culture. It is also the best-attended tournament in the history of FIFA World Cups. FIFA later named the 1994 FIFA World Cup the best ever. The tournament was also a major boost for the sports marketing industry in the United States. It drew thousands of new fans to the sport of soccer.
Lessons Learned from Hosting the FIFA World - Conclusion
The United States hosted the 1994 FIFA World Cup as a way to promote the game of soccer in the country. The tournament was hugely successful in terms of attendance numbers, revenue, and interest in the game. What’s more, it also helped jump-start Major League Soccer, which began play the following year. As a result, the United States has become a more competitive soccer nation, hosting many international matches and tournaments in the years since.