World Cup may not be bring a windfall

The AP’s Stephen Wade has a neat article about new book, Soccenomics. The book “to do for soccer what Bill James in his ‘Baseball Abstracts,’ and Michael Lewis in ‘Moneyball’ did for baseball: examine the game from the outside, using social science and academic rigor.”

Unfortunately for the futbol economy, it appears that while spending Yankees-style can bring on-field success, it doesn’t guarantee profit. The authors, Stefan Szymanski and Simon Kuper, point out that “the next World Cup will not be an airplane dropping dollars on South Africa,” due to enormous stadium construction expense canceling out positive economic impact from WC-related tourism. South Korea has had problems filling all of its new stadia after the 2002 WC.

It’s really the same problem with NFL venues, only the NFL’s stadia are even larger and more expensive. Thankfully, most of the new NFL venues were built during a boom period, with only a few replacements due or overdue. If the overriding argument against bringing a World Cup to a country is the construction cost, that should put the United States and its dozens of excellent stadia in great position, right?

Fifteen years ago, we hosted the WC with a bunch of venues that are now largely obsolete and have been replaced by something else:

  • Rose Bowl
  • Stanford Stadium
  • Cotton Bowl
  • Soldier Field
  • Pontiac Silverdome
  • Giants Stadium
  • Citrus Bowl
  • Foxboro Stadium

Stanford Stadium’s a bit small to do it these days, and the Silverdome and Citrus Bowl will probably continue to deteriorate over the next decade or so, ruling them out. Giants Stadium will be replaced next year while Foxboro and the Silverdome have already been replaced. The Cotton Bowl has been supplanted twice already, and Cowboys Stadium doesn’t have the nasty field crown problem that plagued Texas Stadium. The advent of retractable domes has made Indianapolis and Phoenix suitable locales, which only drives up competition among all of these new venues. That’s not to say that all large NFL stadia are immediately eligible – FIFA has a recent partial roof requirement that may disqualify many large NFL and college stadia. If I were to put together a venue list for a future USA World Cup, it would probably look like this:

  • Group A: Qwest Field, Seattle
  • Group B: New Bay Area Stadium
  • Group C: Reliant Stadium, Houston
  • Group D: Soldier Field, Chicago
  • Group E: University of Phoenix Stadium, Phoenix/Glendale
  • Group F: Gillette Stadium, Boston/Foxboro
  • Group G: FedEx Field, Washington, D.C.
  • Group H: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa

Knockout rounds:

  • Games 1 & 2: New Meadowlands Stadium, New York/New Jersey
  • Games 3 & 4: New Los Angeles Stadium/Rose Bowl
  • Games 5 & 6: Cowboys Stadium, Dallas/Arlington
  • Games 7 & 8: New/Refurbished Miami Stadium


  • Quarterfinal 1: New Meadowlands Stadium
  • Quarterfinal 2: New Los Angeles Stadium/Rose Bowl
  • Quarterfinal 3: Cowboys Stadium
  • Quarterfinal 4: New/Refurbished Miami Stadium


  • Semifinal 1: Cowboys Stadium
  • Semifinal 2: New/Refurbished Miami Stadium


  • Third Place Game: New Los Angeles Stadium/Rose Bowl
  • Championship: New Meadowlands Stadium

It’s a pretty equitable geographic distribution of games, better than 1994 at least. It would also require only two new venues and one refurbished venue (Miami), all of which are in planning stages anyway. So is it a good idea to pursue the World Cup in America in another decade? I can only speak from personal experience, which means that I got to hang out with an official translator for the Brazilian team in Los Gatos during the ’94 WC. Those Brazilians turned that place out. IMHO, hell yes.

14 thoughts on “World Cup may not be bring a windfall

  1. I hope we can get the WC back here. can’t wait for the draw in a couple days.

  2. Sadly we have to wait exactly a year from today to find out if the US gets the WC in 2018 or 2022. But I’d say the fact that almost all our venues for the event are already build (and were built independent of any consideration for the WC) makes the US bid both very logical for FIFA to choose, and makes the US bid one of the more financially responsible. Some of the horror stories coming out of S. Africa about people being displaced to build their stadiums for 2010 and the labor strife that went with building them are just sad. By comparison only 2 possible US WC venues still need to be built, and at least one (Roski’s LA stadium) is being built privately in a city that seems to support the idea.

  3. I definitely think that the World Cup will be coming back to the US, now that Mexico has pulled out. We have plenty of large stadiums. I don’t think any new ones will have to be built. There are some other locations in addition to your suggestions being considered according to the official bid website: Atlanta, Baltimore, Charlotte, Cleveland, Denver, Detroit, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Miami, Nashville, Orlando, Oakland, Philadelphia, San Diego, and St Louis. I would like to see Philadelphia get an event, since they have such passionate supporters of their new MLS team, and it hasn’t even started playing yet. Unfortunately a lot of the stadiums on the list are also using FieldTurf, which FIFA doesn’t really like, but I don’t think with the added cost of temporarily installing natural grass (and the disaster installing it in Detroit was) that they will be to inclined to install grass. But other than the FieldTurf issue, I think the US is the best choice after England (who will probably get 2018, while the US gets 2022)

    • Apparently the England bid has run into some trouble too as of late due in no small part to the match fixing scandal in Europe if I’m not mistaken. FIFA has been taking quite a hit for that and the Ireland game debacle lately.

      • None of the match fixing allegations involve any England teams, so I don’t think it really affects their bid. The main challenges they face are that they are hosting the 2012 Olympics and that the WC has been in Europe more recently than in North America, Asia, or Oceania (which has never hosted).

  4. Well considering the US is the only North American bid I’d say our our chances of getting the WC in one of those years is very good. And I’d be shocked if Oceania doesn’t get the other one.

    • I would love to see it in Australia. But I think they’re bigger competition against the US getting it. With how the WC has been divvied up previously, I doubt they would have 4 world cups without having one in Europe.

      • From a venue standpoint, Australia in a similar position to the US. All of the major cities have at least two stadia – one for rugby union/league, one for cricket/aussie rules. The latter oval might not be intimate enough for WC soccer, but at least the big stadium in Sydney has a flexible seating layout to make it work.

        I agree about the odds though. It’s not going Southern Hemisphere again until Europe gets it.

  5. What does this mean: “That’s not to say that all large NFL stadia are immediately eligible – FIFA has a recent partial roof requirement that may disqualify many large NFL and college stadia.”? What makes a “partial roof”? Not all of the stadiums from the bidding cities on the USABid website have a roof. Does that mean they aren’t actually eligible? I’m confused.

    • Even if there is a “partial roof” requirement (which I’m not sure there is) one thing you need to learn about FIFA. Their “rules and regulations” are often as flimsy as Tiger Wood’s apologies.

    • I think I found what you were referring to

      Click to access football_stadiums_technical_recommendations_and_requirements_en_8211.pdf

      I wouldn’t worry about that. It’s only their “recommendations”. They also recommend that leagues limit themselves to 18 teams, but that hasn’t stopped half the D1 leagues in the world from having 20 or more teams. It’s just their recommendation. But in reality most soccer stadiums don’t have even partial roofs over seating areas let alone the full seating area roofs they recommend. Our NFL stadiums are just fine for the bid. Particularly since they’re some of the biggest and most elaborate venues on Earth *looks at Dallas and rolls eyes*

      • Yeah, that’s the document. The partial roof “recommendation” comes from the need to cover the VIP’s and dignitaries. And as the doc says, it’s more for cold, wet climates, and that shouldn’t be an issue for a US-hosted World Cup. Still, it might be a reason why Indianapolis, which I didn’t mention in my list, could get picked over Chicago, as strange as that might sound.

      • Okay, I understand now. Thanks.

  6. “I can only speak from personal experience, which means that I got to hang out with an official translator for the Brazilian team in Los Gatos during the ‘94 WC.”

    I knew a translator for the team too. My best friend’s mom.

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