US men's national team player Mix Diskerud celebrates after scoring the first goal against Azerbaijan during a World Cup preparation match at Candlestick Park. Credit: Getty Images
As the country begins to shift its eyes towards the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Philadelphia Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz can’t help but wonder what it would be like to host the great event here in Philly.
At an event on Monday outlining the Union’s plans for viewing the World Cup around the city, Sakiewicz made it clear that although Qatar won the bid for the 2022 World Cup, the United States will keep fighting for the honor of being selected as the host nation.
“When Qatar’s name got put up, the first thing I said was, ‘that event’s in 2022, that’s a long way away and the story isn’t written yet. This isn’t over,’” said Sakiewicz. “The U.S. is prepared at a moment’s notice to host a World Cup because we’re one of the few country’s that at a turn of a nickel can host the event.”
Qatar is currently under investigation for bribing soccer officials to vote in their favor. If found guilty, UEFA president Michel Platini says there will be a re-vote.
The United States hasn’t hosted a World Cup since 1994. That single event changed U.S. soccer’s popularity forever, according to Sakiewicz.
“The World Cup has profound impact on the countries that host them,” said Sakiewicz. “United States soccer would not be where it is today if we never hosted the 1994 World Cup. The legacy that the World Cup leaves on a country is amazing.”
The MLS was founded in 1993 as part of the deal for the United States to host the World Cup. In its inception, the league had ten teams, had barely any fan base and was losing millions of dollars each year. The league now makes millions of dollars each year, it is broadcasting its games internationally and by 2015, the league will boast 21 teams.
“Back then we were considered a third-world soccer country,” said Sakiewicz alluding to 1994. “We were a country that didn’t really have a big established professional league and we were a country that had low level professional and college players. … The MLS is now 19 years old and is the fastest growing sports league on the planet.”
Sakiewicz is on Philadelphia’s World Cup Board of Trustees. If the U.S. has the chance to host again, he’ll do everything in his power to bring the games to Philly. For now his focus is on the 2014 World Cup, but regardless of the outcome he doesn’t see the popularity of the sport slowing down anytime soon.
“Win, lose or draw for the United States will have zero impact on the growth of this sport,” said Sakiewicz. “It will continue to grow like the weed that soccer is in this country. It’s been growing in your backyard for a while now and you can’t kill it off.”
Union to face Whitecaps
The Union (3-7-5) return to PPL Park this weekend to face the Vancouver Whitecaps (5-2-5). The Union are coming off a 3-0 victory over Chivas USA (2-6-4) last weekend.
The Whitecaps are led by midfielder Pedro Morales who seems to always be in the right place on the offensive attack. He’s tied for sixth in the league in goals (5) and third in the league in assists (5).
Maurice Edu will need to find a way to disrupt him in the midfield before he starts the attack.
The game will air at 7 p.m. Saturday on the Comcast Network.