Clinton, Donovan lead "humbled" US Bid Committee

Presentation for World Cup 2022 plays up US soccer excitement

In its final presentation to FIFA on Wednesday, the USA Bid Committee vowed to help FIFA to make a lasting social and humanitarian impact around the world on the strength of unprecedented revenue generated by a 2022 World Cup held on American soil.

Seeking to distance itself from the recent US 2016 Olympic bid—which failed amid several accusations of overconfidence—the 30-minute US presentation hammered home how the US would be “humbled” and “honored” at the opportunity to host the World Cup 

Actor Morgan Freeman was charged with outlining the values that the bid represented, including hard work and diversity.

“I believe in the ideals of my country and the promise it has held for people from every corner of the globe,” Freeman said. “We’ve sometimes struggled to meet our ideals. … We are the most diverse nation on earth and our patchwork heritage is our greatest strength.”

The same points were hammered home in a surprise video message from US President Barack Obama, who it was revealed played soccer as a boy in Jakarta, Indonesia, and in the closing address by former President Bill Clinton, who also went out of his way to make a gracious display of sportsmanship.

“A word of appreciation and respect to the countries competing with the USA for this bid,” Clinton said. “I’ve reviewed the outlines of your bids and I found them all very persuasive. I honor your devotion to your nations and to this cause.”

LA Galaxy captain Landon Donovan impressed upon the FIFA Executive Committee the legacy of the World Cup for a generation of young players in the US. He told the story of how he was inspired as a 12-year-old watching Argentina vs. Romania and “a dream was born.”

“Their generation was the first generation to embrace soccer at young age,” Clinton said. “I watched [my daughter] Chelsea play at six or seven years old thinking something magical was about to happen in America. … The first generation are all grown now and millions more of them are there to support this World Cup than there were in 1994.”

Both Donovan and Freeman made it clear to the FIFA Executive Committee members that the passion for the game in the United States was real.

“If you haven’t lived in the United States, you haven’t seen just how wide and deep Americans’ love of football really is,” Freeman said. “You’d be surprised. Maybe even shocked.”

Offered Donovan, “I appreciate you don’t have the opportunity to see it first hand. I’ve lived it and the progress is very real.”

US Soccer President Sunil Gulati asked for FIFA’s commitment to complete a 50-year-plan and elevate the US, which is on the cusp of becoming one of the “great football nations.”

“Here we are at another crossroads for the sport,” Gulati said. “Working with FIFA we have achieved so much but the best is yet to come.”

With the existing infrastructure already in place to host a successful World Cup, Gulati emphasized the exponential revenue that a US World Cup would deliver to FIFA through television rights and sponsorship. As an example he indicated the gap in TV rights fees between the Olympics and World Cup which could potentially be bridged by 2022.

The argument made by the US bid is that the unprecedented financial resources provided by another World Cup on US soil would give FIFA the opportunity to pursue its social and humanitarian initiatives.

Clinton delivered this message by providing great detail of his humanitarian work through the Clinton Global Initiative and sharing his vision for how the United States could help FIFA in similar missions around the globe.

“FIFA’s social responsibility and mission deserve to be supported every bit as much as the games,” Clinton said. “We’ll make sure you meet that commitment and exceed it. You will be free to elevate this game as never before and to show how it can make the world a better place.”

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