Garber shocked by FIFA decision, vows work ahead

Commissioner: US robbed of chance to show its soccer passion

Don Garber

Photo Credit: 
Mike Stobe / Getty

For someone whose league has known virtually
nothing but success and good news the past several years, the decision
to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar and not to the United States
certainly was a tough one for MLS Commissioner Don Garber to swallow.

"It's
very disappointing," Garber said. "I'm a bit shocked. We ran a great
campaign. We felt very good about it. All of the people we met
throughout the last two years, including the last two days, told us we
were in pretty good shape."

Obviously, Qatar was in better shape,
defeating the US in the fourth and final round of voting by the FIFA
Executive Committee, 14-8, at the Zürich Messe on Thursday. Japan, Korea
and Australia were eliminated in earlier rounds.

Since
contracting to 10 teams prior to the 2002 season, the league has soared
to 18 teams with the addition of the Vancouver Whitecaps and Portland
Timbers for 2011. Garber saw not hosting the World Cup as a fabulous
opportunity missed to place the sport into a higher orbit.

"The
sport's in good shape," he said. "It would have accelerated a lot. It
would have given us a 12-year target to be able to do a lot of things to
get us to where we want to be faster. And now like everything in the
soccer business, you've just got to work harder and recognize sometimes
you've got to do it the hard way. And that's what we've got to do."

Qatar
has a population of 1.6 million and has never participated in a World
Cup. The Middle Eastern country, which is roughly the size of
Connecticut, is best known for its oil and natural gas.

"I am
surprised and I'm sure most of America is surprised," Garber said. "I'm
disappointed and most of America is disappointed. It's not just soccer
fans who took a little shot in the head today. I think it's our entire
country, which could have shown the world how passionate we are about
the global game and how a diverse country we are to support the most
diverse sport in the world.

"So, like everything else, we'll take
a deep breath and go back to what we do every day, which is building
the game,” he added. “It just might be a little bit harder now. It might
take a little bit longer."

But how does one explain to
mainstream America that the US lost out to a country with such a small
population? There are more youth players in the US Youth Soccer
Association (3.2 million) than people in Qatar.

"Mainstream
America really doesn't understand the world of international sport,"
Garber said. "They might ask the same questions about Chicago losing the
Olympics."

Last year, Chicago lost its bid to host the 2016
Summer Games as the Windy City surprisingly was eliminated in the first
round. Garber didn't think the US bid lacked a transformational message
that might have swayed some votes.

"We had a great message, but apparently it wasn't compelling enough for the guys that didn't vote for us," he said.

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