USA confident World Cup voting will be fair

TORONTO, Nov 19 (Reuters) - The head of the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) is confident voting to determine the hosts of the 2022 World Cup will be fair despite the recent vote-selling scandal that has rocked FIFA.

Sunil Gulati, USSF president and USA Bid Committee chairman, told reporters on Friday his team, spearheaded by former U.S. president Bill Clinton, would head to Zurich for the Dec. 2 vote certain FIFA had dealt with the allegations of vote selling.

Two FIFA executive committee members were banned and fined on Thursday, one for bribery, over allegations they offered to sell their votes in the contest to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

Four other officials were also banned and fined in an unprecedented move by football's world governing body, which has been shaken by the case and is under huge pressure to show that the contest will be clean and transparent.

"FIFA yesterday made a decision to suspend some of its members and investigate a number of other things," Gulati said after a presentation of the U.S. bid ahead of Sunday's MLS Cup final. "It's an election and we have to convince 22 people now we are the best place to host it.

"They (FIFA) went a long way to try and bring order to the process and make sure the process is fair so I am confident this will be a fair process."


The decision to ban two executive committee members means only 22, instead of the expected 24, will vote when FIFA chooses the hosts for the two tournaments.

England and Russia are seeking to stage the 2018 World Cup along with joint bids from Spain/Portugal and Belgium/Netherlands while Australia, the United States, Japan, South Korea and Qatar are bidding for the 2022 finals.

"We need 12 votes instead of 13 now, so it's easier right?," smiled Gulati. "I don't think it changes the game dramatically for us.

"We've talked to all 24 members the last couple of years and obviously at this stage it will be 22 voting so I don't think it has a direct impact on us."

Gulati is convinced the U.S. has put together an outstanding bid that is capable of winning on its own merits whether the balloting is conducted by 22 or 24 FIFA members.

"Size matters, the American market is huge, 320 million relatively affluent consumers, and I think FIFA understands that," said Gulati.

"If you see what has happened here in a very important large market over the past 15 years since the first World Cup (in the U.S.) then I think FIFA understands.

"They know the U.S. has an appetite for the game.

"The upside of a market like the United States getting more engaged in the world's game is something that is unique."

"I'm optimistic but we are also realistic, there are some very good bids," he added.