Qatar 2022 World Cup bid's new official ambassador Zinedine Zidane(C) poses for a picture with Bid officials during a news conference at the FIFA Inspection Tour in Doha September 16, 2010. Qatar's size, rather than its fierce summer heat or the fact it is an Islamic country, could rule it out of contention to host the World Cup in 2022, the head of FIFA's inspection team hinted on Thursday. Qatar would be the smallest host country since Uruguay staged the inaugural tournament in 1930 but has stressed the advantages of a compact World Cup, with none of the 12 stadiums more than an hour's travelling time from one another. REUTERS/Stringer (QATAR - Tags: SPORT SOCCER)

From Rob Harris of the AP on Twitter this morning:

To properly digest this news, it's necessary to review the FIFA voting process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.  In order to win a bid, a nation must receive an absolute majority (either 13 or 12 votes depending on the outcome of disciplinary hearings against Amos Adamu and Reynald Temarii); if no nation receives an absolute majority in a given round, the bid with the lowest vote total is eliminated and the process repeated.

So if the AP's information is correct, the US bid will have to hope the Qataris come up short of the majority in round one, then pick up the votes that went to whichever bid is eliminated.  From favorite status just a few months ago, the US bid is suddenly looking like an also-ran.

There is just 16 days until the voting takes place on December 2nd in Zurich.  Bids are bringing out their biggest guns for the final presentations, including Primer Minister David Cameron for England, Vladimir Putin for Russia and Bill Clinton for the United States.

As for why Qatar has jumped to the head of the 2022 pack, perhaps it was the state of the art air conditioned stadiums, the fact that those stadiums will be shipped to other nations after the tournament, the location of Qatar in the new football frontier of the Middle East, or shady backroom deals.  It's the last one that raises our hackles, and with evidence of collusion between Qatar and Spain/Portugal coming to the forefront just last week, the cynical view naturally wins out.

I have no doubts that members of the FIFA Executive Committee have been seduced by the shiny bells and whistles of the Qatar bid.  But as Steve Goff pointed out (also on Twitter), a Qatar World Cup would occur in a country smaller than Connecticut with a population smaller than Fiji's.  Throw in prohibition of alcohol in the country, and it would certainly be a uniquely local and dry affair (though I suppose it's possible the alcohol restrictions could be temporarily lifted - I can't recall reading anything about that specfically).

Oh, and it's hot.  Really hot.  But you already knew that. 

Combined with Blatter's quixotic belief that a World Cup could reunite the Koreas, and there hasn't been much good news for the US bid.  Let's hope it's all bluster and noise.
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