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More High-Profile Soccer Tourneys Could Be Coming to America

16 Nov, 2016

By: Michael Popke

Might New York be the first city outside of Europe to host a Union of European Football Associations Championships League final? Recently appointed UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin says he will revive an open bidding process to host the match, which traditionally has been held on European soil. New York came up during his recent discussion of the topic.

“To go from Portugal to Azerbaijan, for example, is almost the same as if you go to New York. For the fans, it’s no problem,” Ceferin said in an exclusive interview with the Associated Press, referring to travel times. “We should think also about other markets, but how to do it exactly I’m not sure yet. China is financially interesting and the U.S. is not just financially interesting, but football is growing there.”

Indeed, the United States hosted the Copa America Centenario in June, during which new records were set for total and average attendance, television viewership, and digital and social media engagement. According to U.S. Soccer, nearly 1.5 million fans attended the 32 Copa America Centenario games at 10 venues in the United States, where average crowds totaled more than 46,000 fans per game and made it the most attended Copa America in the tournament’s 100-year history. Put into historical context, the event as a whole is now the second highest-attended official single-game soccer tournament in the United States, behind only the 1994 FIFA World Cup (in which 20 more games were played). 

As Sports Illustrated reports, “UEFA has until now been awarding the honor of staging its showpiece finals without any tendering process, with stadium hosts decided in secret by the leadership.”

Perhaps in an effort to distinguish himself from his predecessor — disgraced Michel Platini initially was banned from the sport for eight years for ethic violations — Ceferin is attempting to be as transparent as possible.

“The bidding process should be very clear, because if you get the Champions League finals or Europa League finals as a political favor, then it’s not OK,” he said in the AP interview. “With a clear bidding procedure, I will protect also the administration and myself, because whoever tries to call us, to push us, to ask us for such a favor we will have a clear answer: ‘Sorry, there are clear rules; we cannot do it.’ ”

The chances of the United States hosting the 2026 World Cup are improving, too. In mid-October, FIFA’s governing council voted to bar countries in Europe and Asia, which will host the next two World Cups, from bidding for the 2026 tournament.

 “That has changed the landscape [of the 2026 contest] a little bit,” U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati told ESPNFC.us.

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