In a surprise announcement by the United States Soccer Federation yesterday, former President Bill Clinton was named as the honorary Chairman of the American bid to host either the 2018 or 2022 World Cups. Clinton, who has devoted himself to a number of philanthropic projects since leaving office in 2001, will be charged with the task of promoting the bid both across the United States and around the globe before FIFA makes its final decision on the destination of both tournaments in December this year.
Despite not being known for the depth of his footballing knowledge, Clinton is certainly making all the right noises with regard to the bid. Upon accepting his new role with USSF, Clinton was quoted in the official press release as saying:
“I continue to be impressed with FIFA’s work to promote the game as an agent for social change, and I’m proud to represent the United States in our bid to bring the World Cup tournament back to American soil, allowing us to inspire action and cooperation on an even greater scale.”
The former President certainly has the global profile and diplomatic muscle to give the United States’ bid an extra dimension and, on the part of the USSF, the appointment of Clinton to their team is an extremely intelligent piece of recruitment. FIFA’s President, Sepp Blatter, has barely been able to conceal his delight of late when receiving bids fronted or supported by political leaders, the giddy, child-like delight he showed when handed a personal letter from Vladimir Putin as part of the Russian bid presentation being a case in point. Blatter, a deceptively shrewd political operator, has displayed an enthusiasm for ingratiating himself with men and women of power, something which has clearly influenced the USSF’s decision to appoint Clinton, a figure of such stature that FIFA will surely reward in some way the Americans’ efforts to raise the profile of their bid to its optimum level.
With a multitude of state-of-the-art stadia and the world’s most advanced infrastructure, the United States would present FIFA with a “safe” option for 2018 following what will arguably be two slightly more “high risk” tournaments in South Africa and Brazil. With England’s bid having been thrown into turmoil with the resignation of its Chairman Lord Triesman and doubts being cast over FIFA’s enthusiasm for the joint bid of Spain and Portugal, the USA’s package could well prove the most attractive to football’s governing body. Clinton’s attachment to the bid will surely only serve to improve his country’s chances of hosting what would be the second World Cup on its soil and another chance to showcase football to the game’s rapidly expanding American fan base. The next seven months will be fascinating.