A nation smaller than the state of Connecticut, that battles 130 degree heat, will host the worlds largest sporting event.
ZURICH -- The tiny desert nation of Qatar beat out the United States as the 2022 World Cup host, with FIFA brushing aside doubts about blistering heat to bring soccer's showcase event for the first time to the Middle East.
The 22 voters on FIFA's executive committee, some accused of corruption in the weeks leading up to their meeting, picked Russia to stage the 2018 tournament, another first-time host.
Qatar, an oil-rich nation that has been independent since 1971, has a population of about 1.7 million -- 500,000 less than Houston. At 4,416 square miles, it is smaller than Connecticut.
"We go to new lands," FIFA president Sepp Blatter said.
Qatar, which has promised to overcome heat of up to 130 degrees with air conditioned outdoor stadiums, won out over the U.S., Australia, Japan and South Korea in a secret vote Thursday.
The U.S. Soccer Federation, which spent millions of dollars on its bid and brought over former President Bill Clinton for its closing presentation, was hoping to bring the World Cup back to America for the first time since 1994 and boost the steady but slow growth of the sport in the U.S.
Russia was chosen over England and joint bids by Spain-Portugal and Netherlands-Belgium. "We cannot really express how happy we are," said Alexey Sorokin, CEO of Russia's bid. "It's a great victory."
Following corruption allegations that led to two executive committee members being excluded from the final votes, the decisions were bound to be controversial even before they were made. And American sports executives will now be left to wonder what they have do to host another major international event.
"Basically, oil and natural gas won today. This was not about merit, this was about money," former U.S. national team star Eric Wynalda said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. Qatar "is a country that is really going to struggle to host this event. A successful World Cup would mean the attendance would be twice the population."
Qatar, which has never even qualified for a World Cup, used its 30-minute presentation to underline how the tournament could unify a region ravaged by conflict. Presenters also promised to dismantle the stadiums built for the tournament and give them to needy nations.
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