North American region to push for 2018 World Cup

March 7, 2007

NEW YORK -- Soccer's governing body for North and Central America and the Caribbean will push to host the 2018 World Cup.

FIFA's executive committee voted unanimously in August 2000 to rotate the sport's top event among the six continents, and the U.S. Soccer Federation decided last month to proceed with a bid for the 2018 tournament.

"In the cycle, this would be the fifth, would be CONCACAF, and I suspect that will be fulfilled as of 2018," CONCACAF general secretary Chuck Blazer said Wednesday.

Japan and South Korea co-hosted in 2002, and last year's tournament was in Germany. South Africa is the 2010 host, and Brazil and Colombia are bidding for 2014, with FIFA's executive committee set to vote in November.

Blazer, a member of FIFA's executive committee since 1996, said that Australia's decision to leave Oceania and compete in Asia meant a five-continent rotation rather than six.

"Oceania, while being a confederation, with Australia having moved to Asia, has no potential host," he said.

The British government has said it would back a bid by England for the 2018 tournament. Europe has eight spots among the 24 members of FIFA's executive committee, but Blazer said he hopes the group doesn't alter the rotation plan.

"If they change that, I think they have to consider greater changes than that," he said. "I think ultimately equity should play its role first, and that if we started a process of rotation, then let's finish it before we switch to something else."

The United States hosted the World Cup in 1994 and England staged it in 1966, when it won its only title. The only other CONCACAF country to have hosted a World Cup is Mexico in 1970 and 1986.

Blazer also said CONCACAF will propose the same qualifying format for the 2010 World Cup that it used for the 2006 tournament. Under that system, three teams qualify from a six-nation final round, and the fourth-place team goes to a playoff for a berth.

"Had we had four places, which we had been pushing for, we could have come up with a different solution," he said, adding that two final-round groups of four would have been considered.

Blazer spoke before Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber was honored at the UJA-Federation of New York's sports for youth luncheon, which raised $200,000. Los Angeles Galaxy general manager Alexi Lalas was master of ceremonies.

English midfielder David Beckham, set to join the Galaxy after his contract with Real Madrid expires in June, injured a knee last weekend but is expected to miss only a month.

"We were concerned. Obviously he's a very important part of our organization and our league," Lalas said. "We're pleased that by all accounts it's going to be a short-term thing and that it won't affect at all his arrival in Los Angeles nor his start with the Galaxy."

Since the deal with Beckham was announced in January, greater attention has been focused on the team and the league.

"We will have a jersey sponsor by the beginning of our season," Lalas said.

Beckham is expected to play his first MLS game Aug. 5 at Toronto, the start of a stretch that has the Galaxy playing 10 of 15 games on the road.

"We've bent over backwards for this league in terms of the scheduling and we are at a competitive disadvantage," Lalas said. "We accept that fact, that there is a business side of it."

Because of the CONCACAF Gold Cup and the Copa America, the Galaxy could lose Landon Donovan for periods in June and July. Many MLS teams will be in a similar situation with their top players.

"We've been in deep discussions with the federation," Garber said. "We'll figure it out so it minimizes the impact on the league."


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press