Miami's bid to be a World Cup host plays out over 3 hours
By Zachary S. Fagenson
Miami's bid to host World Cup matches in either the 2018 or 2022 tournament comes down to a final three hours next month.
An evaluation team from the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, soccer's international governing body, is to fly to Miami the afternoon of Sept. 8, be whisked off to Sun Life Stadium, which would host matches, and later the Miami Beach Convention Center, which could host the final draw that sets the tournament's group play.
FIFA officials also are to visit New York City, Dallas, Houston and Washington, DC, during their US tour.
The US is one of nine hopefuls seeking the month-long tournament and Miami is one of 18 cities hoping to end up on a list 12 to 15 that will ultimately host the games.
And while Miami is pushing for the 2018 games, it might not be in the cards.
"I'm thinking we might not get it in 2018 even though we're going for it hard," said County Commissioner and Miami-Dade Sports Commission Chair José "Pepe" Diaz, "but 2022 is a given."
As of July 21, Miami, with 66,808 signatures, sat atop the USA Bid Committee's online petition supporting the games, followed by Houston with 65,699 and Los Angeles with 59,104. So far, 937,907 people have signed, nearing the 1 million goal set by the US national soccer team Captain Landon Donovan in early July.
Mr. Diaz and Miami-Dade Sports Commission Executive Director Mike Sophia are to travel to New York City on Sept. 7 to meet with FIFA officials before returning to Miami for the visit.
"We've got to get hyped in this community," Mr. Diaz said. "Right now we're in that decisive mode. What can we do, what [of Miami] can we show for these men to say this is a place they have to play?
"I'm not going just for a game here. We're shooting for the starting game, the final game. Whatever we can get we're going to shoot for," he added.
Though Mr. Diaz said he hopes to have school children greet the delegation and has the full support of Dolphins and stadium owner Stephen Ross, it seems there's little time to razzle-dazzle FIFA's evaluation team.
"It's a pretty refined visit," said Mr. Sophia of the sports commission. "The schedule's tight. They get shown the locker rooms, field, VIP levels, and we'll have a Q&A for them at the stadium.
"At the convention center we're going to talk about the vision for a convention center in 2018 or 2022 and then we'll talk about how, if the World Cup were today and the [Final] Draw were today, it would happen," he added.
The 3Ĺ-hour visit "is a lot more technical than pomp and circumstance," Mr. Sophia said, though Mr. Diaz did say he's working to have Sun Life Stadium's field converted to a soccer pitch.
The FIFA team will be joined by members of the national bid committee, including bid committee Chair Sunil Gulati, who are "ultimately the ones coordinating this."
The local bid committee, Mr. Sophia added, has worked with the national committee through several visits in recent months to help Miami, and ultimately the US, put its best foot forward.
And regardless of how the US and Miami convince FIFA to host an upcoming tournament here, the benefits of landing the tournament are really something to celebrate.
"Imagine a Super Bowl every day basically for a month," said Mr. Diaz, who pegged the economic impact of the World Cup at about $1 billion.
FIFA is to decide on the location of both tournaments in December.