FIFA execs have "flagged up a possible American bid" for the '26 World Cup after "the 'staggering' impact of the tournament" in the U.S., according to Martyn Ziegler of the PA. FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke told Brazil newspaper Globo, "What we see in the United States is staggering. The audience is unprecedented, more than the NBA." FIFA President Sepp Blatter has "been equally impressed." He said, "It's fantastic -- the level of interest in the USA is very high. This World Cup is really getting under people's skin." U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati has previously said that the U.S. "could bid" for the '26 event, but "only if the bidding rules change" (PA, 7/2). But in DC, Marissa Payne wrote the U.S. "might not need to wait" until '26 to host a World Cup, as "talk bubbled up last month about a possible re-vote over the location" of the '22 tournament. It is scheduled to take place in Qatar, but "with accusations of bribery, numerous human rights complaints and news that FIFA 'ignored its own terror alert,' there’s been chatter" that the U.S. "might end up hosting" the event. Whether that is a realistic possibility "might become more clear later this month, however, when FIFA's Ethics Committee has said it will release a report investigating the corruption charges" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 7/2).
WE'RE NOT GONNA PROTEST: Blatter on Wednesday declared that the World Cup in Brazil "was a success," and said that the "fears of anti-tournament protests had not materialized." Blatter: "I am a very happy man today." The AFP noted the World Cup has "escaped the massive protests that marred last year's warm-up tournament, the Confederations Cup, when hundreds of thousands of people swarmed the streets to denounce" the record $11B spent on hosting the event. The protests "have been much smaller during the World Cup" (AFP, 7/2).
THREE SHEETS TO THE WIND: The AP noted Valcke is "reviving a debate over whether alcohol sales should have been allowed at matches" in this year's World Cup. In an interview with Brazil-based SporTV, Valcke said "maybe there were too many people who were drunk" at the matches. Brazil banned alcohol sales at soccer matches in '03 "in a bid to curb fan violence," but FIFA "insisted Brazil lift the ban in order to host" in '14. Valcke in '12 said that lifting the ban was "non-negotiable," but on Wednesday he "appeared to soften his position" (AP, 7/2).
TPC Harding Park in S.F. yesterday was announced as the site of the '15 WGC-Match Play Championship, which will have a "different format starting next year," according to Jeff Rude of GOLF WEEK. The 64-man field will be divided into 16 four-player groups, and each group "will play round-robin matches Wednesday-Friday." Players with the "best record in each group will advance to 16-man, single-elimination match play, with two rounds on Saturday and the semifinals and final Sunday." The event for the past eight years was played in Marana, Ariz., and has a "one-year deal at Harding." The PGA Tour is "said to be close to getting a 'yes' or 'no' from an unnamed prospective title sponsor" after losing Accenture following this year's event. The one-year agreement "enables the Match Play to remain on the schedule and gives the Tour time to figure out when and where to stage the event" in '16. It had been "held on Week 8 of the Tour schedule, ending the West Coast Swing," and the Tour is "said to want to return to that date again" in '16 (GOLFWEEK.com, 7/2).
THE BEAUTIFUL GAME? REUTERS' Mark Lamport-Stokes reported Match Play organizers "hope that a 'World Cup-type format' will breathe new life into the first of the season's four elite World Golf Championships events where so often in the past the top players have made early exits." PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said, "It's kind of nice that we're able to talk about that in the context of everybody in the United States being riveted to that format over the last month in Brazil where we'll be playing golf in the Olympics for the first time in '16." Finchem said of the format change, "It's a lot more golf. There are going to be 96 matches for fans here to go out and watch on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Secondly, over time, the best players rise to the top so we think that'll be positive as it goes into the weekend. Third, if you're a Steve Stricker fan or a Bubba Watson fan or a Tiger Woods fan, you're going to be able to follow your favorite player for three days hoping that he makes it into the round of 16" (REUTERS, 7/2).
QUAIL HUNTING: In Charlotte, David Scott reports the '15 dates for the Wells Fargo Championship "have been temporarily moved" to May 14-17 to accommodate the Match Play's new time slot from April 29 to May 3. Wells Fargo Championship Exec Dir Kym Hougham said, "The tour asked if we could help out and we were happy to." But Scott notes the move "means the Wells Fargo will be played the week after the Players Championship ... rather than a week before." The change also "lands the Wells Fargo in the middle of Charlotte's NASCAR speed weeks," as the Sprint All-Star Race will "likely be scheduled for May 16 at Charlotte Motor Speedway." Hougham said that the tournament will "return to its early May date" in '16 (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 7/3).