Union Brass Optimistic After WC Snub
PHILADELPHIA – Soccer fans at the Philly pub Tir Na Nog were crushed when FIFA president Sepp Blatter announced the 2022 World Cup would be held in Qatar and not the United States.
But moments later, Philadelphia Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz made a statement of his own, trying to replace the overwhelming feelings of bitterness and resentment with ones of hope and optimism.
“This sport continues to grow, no matter what,” he said. “I said it would grow in 1983 when I started my pro career, and it has. People continue to want to take knocks on soccer in the US, but it’s an unstoppable movement.”
Certainly, losing a chance to host the World Cup is disappointing and, for those invested in the sport, a bitter pill to swallow. But Union coach John Hackworth agreed with Sakiewicz that the sport isn’t going to take any steps backward in light of Thursday’s announcement.
“Look, we’re talking about an event that’s 12 years away,” Hackworth said. “If you look historically at the sport and our growth in the past 12 years, I don’t think it will hurt us going forward. It changes things and it changes the direction of US Soccer and Major League Soccer and it certainly isn’t a good thing. But the sport is here to stay. Our fans are here to stay. Our team and our league are here to stay. And that’s the most important thing.”
If anything, MLS' momentum will continue to surge forward, fueled by the new stadiums and teams that continue to be constructed. And judging by how many people skipped out on work to pack a pub in the morning, it seems clear soccer is doing well in terms of fan support, too.
“Kind of in a weird way, I take this a little as a compliment because maybe we don’t need the help of a World Cup,” Sakiewicz said. “They gave it to two countries that do need help.”
The Union CEO also has no doubt Philadelphia will remain a top destination to hold world-class soccer games.
“We may not host a World Cup here, but we will certainly bring lots of international soccer games here like we did this year,” said Sakiewicz, one of six delegates who represented Philadelphia as a possible World Cup host city. “Whether it’s the World Cup or friendly games or qualifiers, Philly is a proven soccer city. I don’t doubt we’ll have a lot of soccer here for many, many years to come.”
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