Houston dignitaries and soccer fans gathered at the George R. Brown Convention Center on Thursday morning to watch the announcement of hosts for the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups, hoping and expecting to celebrate afterward.
Instead, they were left to say subdued greetings and move on with their day after the United States failed in its bid to host the 2022 World Cup, ousted surprisingly by Qatar, the oil-rich Middle Eastern country of only 4,416 square miles, almost 61 times smaller than the state of Texas.
"Everybody here is disappointed," said Dynamo forward Brian Ching, a GO USA BID scarf draped over his shoulders. "The United States has the potential to put on the best World Cup or one of the best World Cups that the world could have. ... I think if they held the games here in the United States, obviously we have the capacity for getting the most fans to actually watch games in the stadiums. Having said that, this gives us more of a chance to get the next one."
The selection of Qatar likely means that China will not be eligible to bid for the World Cup in 2026, as FIFA has traditionally followed a policy of not awarding consecutive World Cups to the same continent. However, should the United States bid for 2026, it will likely face stiff competition from Europe, South America, and possibly Africa. Part of Thursday's announcement was Russia winning the rights to host the 2018 World Cup, a mild surprise ahead of England and a joint Spain-Portugal bid.
Although disappointed by the decision, Ching played down the possibility of corruption and quoted the words of FIFA president Sepp Blatter from his speeches during Thursday's announcement.
"When you look at the big scheme of things, it could be good for the game," Ching said. "The Middle East has never had the World Cup, and Russia obviously is a big nation and, you could say, deserve the World Cup just on never having it before and being such a dominant power in the world. It goes to FIFA trying to make a statement, trying to grow the game, and trying to get more of the world to follow soccer. If you look at it from that sense, the decisions make a lot of sense. ... I’m disappointed, but like Sepp said, one of the things about this game is you have to be gracious in defeat, and hopefully our next bid gets more of a chance to host the World Cup."
Despite the World Cup decision, there was potential good news for Houston soccer fans on Thursday, as the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority announced a noon press conference to comment on the progress of the proposed Dynamo soccer stadium to be built in downtown Houston.