Leiweke Joins U.S. World Soccer Bid

If England wants to stage the 2018 or 2022 World Cup soccer finals, it will need to brush aside a U.S. challenge that now has the backing of AEG president and chief exec Tim Leiweke.

Leiweke, whose company owns Major League Soccer teams including the L.A. Galaxy, has worked in soccer for much of his professional life and says he’s privileged to join the team preparing to bring the sport’s ultimate event back to America.

“The growth of the passion for the sport in our country has undoubtedly resulted in the growth of its economy and yet, the opportunity to reach its full maturity is still in front of us,” he explained.

“Another World Cup in the USA would help turn the estimated 90 million fans of the sport in our country into a strong global market force.”

The US staged the competition in 1994, when it failed to qualify for the second phase of the tournament.

FIFA, world soccer’s governing body, arguably had little choice than to stage the event in the U.S.

Rival bidders included Morocco, which had only two suitable venues, Brazil – which had inflation running at 300 percent – and Chile, which withdrew its bid before the decision on where to stage the finals was made.

The upside was that the U.S., which had larger venues than Europe and Latin America, had record-breaking attendances when nearly 3.6 million fans turned out to watch the games.

The average attendance was nearly 69,000, which broke records dating to the 1950 competition in Brazil.

The U.S. has also qualified for the 2010 competition in South Africa, where its first game is against England in Rustenburg June 12.