Football great Mia Hamm, former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and comedian Drew Carey attended the first board meeting of the U.S. bid committee trying to host the World Cup in 2018 or 2022.
US Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati also was at the three-hour session on Tuesday, held at Major League Soccer's offices. US coach Bob Bradley, who was not on the board, sat in. FIFA will choose the 2018 and 2022 hosts next December.
The US will propose 12-to-18 host cities in its bid book, which is due to FIFA by May. Thirty-two stadiums are under consideration for what would be the second World Cup in the U.S., the first since 1994. "We were really gathering everybody to focus their attention on the upcoming year, which I would say is the campaign phase of the bid," executive director David Downs said in a telephone interview. "When all is said and done, the mission is to get as many of the 24 votes we can get. And we were trying to kind of strategize about ways we can go about that and what abilities some of their folks have, either who they know or what assets they have at their disposal."
England, Netherlands-Belgium, Russia, Spain-Portugal, Australia and Japan also are bidding to host both World Cups. Indonesia, Qatar and South Korea are bidding for 2022 only.
Eight of the 24 voters on FIFA's executive committee are from Europe, making that continent the favorite to host in 2018. "Until somebody tells us we're not permitted to bid for '18, we're bidding for '18. We're bidding for both," Downs said. Still, he admitted, "a lot of intelligent people are forecasting that '18 is a race between European nations."