Sunil Gulati says football is experiencing enormous growth in the USA (US Soccer)

(WFI) US World Cup bid leader Sunil Gulati tells World Football Insider the sell-out for tonight’s Mexico vs Ecuador clash to inaugurate the New Meadowlands Stadium is a major boost to the country’s quest to land the 2018 or 2022 tournament.

“It is a sign of enormous growth of the sport in the United States that the first sold out event in the New Meadowlands Stadium just outside of New York City would be an international football match,” US Soccer president Gulati told WFI on Friday.

More than 75,000 fans are expected for the international friendly at the $1.6 billion stadium.

The venue is among those included in the US bid book that will be presented to FIFA president Sepp Blatter in Zurich next Friday. New York is one of the 18 candidate cities unveiled by the bid in January.

New Meadowlands Stadium will become the home of the National Football League’s New York Giants and New York Jets from this summer.

The sold-out Mexico-Ecuador match is the first major test of the new facility, as it’s the first sports event where all the stands will be open. Only the lower bowl of seats was utilised for a lacrosse competition last month.

“Not only is the event a great tribute to the wonderful new stadium, but also to the diverse communities that make up the US,” Gulati added.

“It is further evidence that a World Cup in the US would be a World Cup at home for many countries.”

The New Meadowlands Stadium replaces Giants Stadium, a host venue at the 1994 World Cup, that is being demolished next door in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Tonight’s game is part of Mexico’s World Cup warm-up schedule, which will also include international friendlies in Chicago, Houston and Mexico City. Later this month, Mexico will play England at Wembley Stadium and the Netherlands in Freiberg before meeting Italy in Brussels.

Mexico play World Cup hosts South Africa in the opening match of the tournament on June 11. Their other opponents in Group A are Uruguay and France.

Billionaire Usmanov invests in Russia 2018
Arsenal shareholder Alisher Usmanov, the Uzbek mining billionaire, today announced his financial support for Russia’s World Cup bid.

Art and Sport, a charity founded by Usmanov, was named as the bid’s third major partner.

The charity provides help in organising socially important events in art, culture and sport, and also implements scientific, educational and social projects throughout Russia.

“Hosting the FIFA World Cup would be extremely important for Russia. An event of such magnitude would raise the profile of the country, provide an impact for national football development, and most importantly attract the youth to sports”, said Usmanov.

Bid CEO Alexey Sorokin welcomed the partnership with Art and Sport, which runs projects with a variety of sports organisations, such as the Russian Fencing Federation and

Usmanov’s charity becomes Russia’s third sponsor (Getty Images)

Sports Club.

“By joining our campaign, Art and Sport demonstrates its commitment to Russia’s goal of hosting the FIFA World Cup for the first time in history,” said Sorokin, who is also general secretary of the Russian Football Union.

“Alisher Usmanov’s contribution to our work will further strengthen our outreach to all stakeholders in the world of football so as to bring across the merits of the Russian bid.”

Art and Sport joins BDO consultants and Russian law firm Yust as a bid partner.

Last month, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin signed off on the nine governmental guarantees demanded by FIFA. The guarantees cover a wide range of issues from stadium construction to intellectual property protection.

Holland-Belgium bid book city tour concludes
Dutch prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende and Belgian PM Yves Leterme symbolically bound the chapters of the bid book in Antwerp yesterday at the conclusion of its tour of the bid’s candidate host cities.

Balkenende said the bid was “fantastic and very important for both

countries”. Leterme said it was a unique opportunity for both countries and that Belgium would rise to the challenge of hosting a World Cup.

Leterme and Balkenende presented the bid book to Holland-Belgium ambassador Paul van Himst.

He is a member of the bid team travelling to Zurich to present its dossier to FIFA president Sepp Blatter on May 14. Bid president Ruud Gullit will lead the delegation which will also include CEO Harry Been.

The 12-city tour kicked off in Genk and Heerenveen on April 29, with representatives of the different cities travelling by bike, bus, train and boat.

Van Himst was delighted by the cities’ enthusiasm for bid. “Every city has tried to be sustainable and original. This not only resulted in pretty pictures,” he said.

“A bicycle tour of 180 kilometres in one day, from Enschede to Amsterdam on 1 May, is also a great sporting feat, as was today’s bicycle tour from Ghent to Antwerp. This underlines our bid’s green character. And this makes us unique.”

Lowy says Fan Fest will boost Australian bid
Australia World Cup bid chairman Frank Lowy said today that a Fan Fest in Sydney during the 2010 World Cup, one of only six around the globe, will help communicate the country’s enthusiasm for football to FIFA.

Four giant TV screens will show all 64 games of the June 11 to July 11 tournament at the city’s Darling Harbour. Despite the anti-social kick-off times for Australia, Lowy expects a big turnout of fans to watch the matches; family entertainment activities will also be offered.

Lowy believes that footage of some of the Fan Fest events that will be screened around the world will boost the Australian bid’s image in the eyes of FIFA’s 24-man executive committee who will decide the 2018 and 2022 hosts in December.

“First of all we ought to be pleased that we’ve been picked, one of six cities of the world, and they [FIFA] didn’t pick us just because Sydney is Sydney,” Lowy was quoted by AAP on Friday.

“They picked us because Sydney has a prospect and an opportunity to host the World Cup itself, together with other cities in Australia.”

Lowy remains confident in Australia’s bid, despite the fact that its venues have yet to be finalised and issues remain unresolved with the AFL and other football codes, as reported by WFI yesterday.

“I think this is a bid we are putting in very seriously (and it will be) accepted very seriously,” he said.

from WFI editor Mark Bisson (
[email protected])

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