This past summer, I joined thousands of fans in the stands of the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg, South Africa, to watch as the United States faced a strong Ghana team during the round of 16 at the FIFA World Cup.
I had changed my schedule to attend the game, following an exhilarating U.S. win over Algeria in the first round. Even though Ghana defeated the U.S., I was proud of our team. They played well and fought to the very end.
I’m always amazed by the game’s powerful, unifying force. For 30 days, fans from all nations put aside their differences to embrace a shared love for a game that has been bringing people together for generations.
In 1994, when I was president, it was a great thrill to sit in the stands at Soldier Field in Chicago with more than 67,000 enthusiastic fans, including German chancellor Helmut Kohl and the president of Bolivia, Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, in the opening game of the 1994 World Cup.
It was the first time—and so far, the last time—that World Cup games were played on American soil. I’m trying to change that by serving as the Honorary Chairman of the USA Bid Committee to bring the World Cup back in 2022.
The bid could not come at a better time for the game of soccer, the United States and the world. First, the level of enthusiasm for the game has never been greater across America. Thanks in good part to the opportunity FIFA gave us to host the games in 1994, we have become a nation of footballers, young and old. The last 16 years have seen the creation of the MLS professional league, an expansion of the game’s United States fan base to more than 90 million and now a roster of four million registered youth players. Last summer, our passion for the sport extended beyond our borders: The United States was second only to South Africa in tickets purchased for the 2010 World Cup.
Second, our nation, like the game, is more diverse than ever before. We have a fascinating mix of ethnicities and cultures within our borders. Players from every competing nation would feel as though they were playing a home game right here in the United States.
Third, this is an important moment for the future of the game of soccer. Our bid promises not only to uphold the great legacy of the World Cup but also to advance global growth by creating new opportunities for the world’s soccer economy, including greater television and sponsorship rights, increased franchise and team values and greater investment in player development.
Last, and perhaps most important, our bid will mobilize American citizens and citizens around the globe to do more to address the economic, social and environmental challenges facing our world in the 21st century. If awarded the opportunity, we will use the 2022 World Cup as a platform to assist those less fortunate and promote environmental sustainability in line with the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals. For example, a percentage of every ticket sold at the 2022 World Cup will go to the World Cup of Life campaign, a project aimed at providing drinking water for millions in the developing world. Additionally, as hosts, we would set new standards in environmental responsibility by minimizing the footprint of the event in six core areas: water, waste, energy, transportation, procurement and climate change.
Because in our interdependent world we have to change our theory of success from a zero-sum game, where one team has to win while the other must lose. It’s good for sports, and makes for great World Cup matches, but it’s wrong for the world. We need to build a world with more winners.
Our bid will do just that. In 1988 FIFA had the foresight to recognize the potential of the United States. Twenty-two years later, we are ready to demonstrate to the world how much more the United States has to offer and how far our nation is willing to go to deliver an outstanding tournament. If the United States is selected to host the FIFA World Cup, we will be extremely privileged—and ready—to honor the sport of soccer and all that it represents for the fan, for the game and for the world.
President Clinton is Honorary Chairman, USA Bid Committee for FIFA World Cup 2022. He will be part of the USA presentation delegation on Dec. 1 in Zurich. The vote is Dec. 2.