USA launches bid to host World Cup

MIAMI - The United States has formally placed its bid to host the World Cup in 2018 or 2022, the country's soccer federation said on Monday.

"The World Cup is the greatest sporting event in the world and to have the opportunity to host it again is an honour but also an incredible challenge," US Soccer president Sunil Gulati told a teleconference to unveil the bid team.

The U.S hosted the World Cup finals in 1994 (pictured), an event Gulati described as "overwhelmingly positive".

"We are confident we can put together a successful bid to host another impressive event," he said.

Plenty of horse-trading is expected in the double-bid process, which will end with a FIFA vote in December 2010, and Gulati indicated the U.S would prefer to host 2018.

"Sooner is always better," he said.

The number of candidates bidding to stage one of the two finals rose to 12 on Monday when Egypt and South Korea made late entries.

South Korea will be up against Asian rivals Japan, the country they co-hosted the 2002 World Cup with, Indonesia, Qatar and Australia.

England and Russia are among the European contenders along with joint bids from Spain/Portugal and Netherlands/Belgium.

Mexico will challenge the U.S for the support of the Central and North American soccer federation CONCACAF.

HOST CITIES

No U.S. cities have yet been pencilled in as potential hosts for matches said Gulati, who added that an initial shortlist could feature as many as 40 stadiums.

"We haven't reached out to cities yet although a few have reached out to us. We have 25 to 40 venues that could host the World Cup," said Gulati who noted that the decision on cities would not be made until after the bid vote.

"We have an abundance of choices," he said citing the many existing and planned stadiums in the country.

Gulati said his bid committee includes Major League Soccer (MLS) commissioner Don Garber, Phil Murphy, the former national finance chair of the Democratic National Committee, and U.S Soccer CEO Dan Flynn.

Television executive David Downs has been appointed executive director of the bid.

Gulati said that while the 1994 World Cup was a success, the status of the game in the U.S has changed significantly in the past 15 years.

"People have seen the growth of the game, with MLS, a professional women's league and the success of our teams," he said.

"There were a lot of doubters in 1994 -- if we could fill stadiums, we did it, if we could create a professional league, we did that. It is hard to say that we have done anything but disprove doubts some people had."