The World's Game In The Heart of the Sun Belt

A delay for Atlanta, U.S. World Cup bids?

Could Atlanta — and the other cities that are part of the U.S. Soccer Federation’s World Cup bid — experience a delay in their aspirations of playing host to World Cup games? Mihir Bose, a veteran British journalist who covers the politics of international sports, asserts at Inside the Games that the Americans might withdraw their proposal for 2018 and focus instead on landing the 2022 World Cup.

Australia has already done this, sensing that FIFA is lined up firmly behind the 2018 World Cup returning to Europe. If the USSF indeed does follow suit, Bose suggests it won’t happen until the fall, when FIFA lays out the process for its December votes for both 2018 and 2022.

And if you think the International Olympic Committee’s ways are murky, mysterious and unaccountable, Bose has some news for you:

“Now you may think this is a trivial issue but it is actually very important. And in the race for 2018 and 2022, it could well prove quite crucial. The decisions made at that meeting will shape the deals which will decide these races.

“For a start FIFA, being FIFA, its voting system is not quite as clearly set out and rigorous as that of the IOC. Recall back when Korea and Japan were bidding for 2002 and it looked as if Korea might win. João Havelange, then President, having promised Japan the competition, just decided there would not be a vote. The result: both countries shared the competition and Havelange justified it by saying it was necessary to save the face of the loser.

“Sepp Blatter, his successor, cannot quite pull of anything like that. In an IOC vote on bidding cities, the IOC member from the country bidding cannot vote until his or her city is eliminated, but there are no such restrictions in FIFA.”

Bose points out that a “deal” between the U.S. and UEFA, the European confederation, likely exists — the U.S. votes for a European venue for 2018 in exchange for European votes for a second American World Cup in 2022. Already such alliances have been in the works, with the back-scratching expected to reach a fever pitch by December. How it will all shake out is anybody’s guess, but since this is the first time two World Cup nations will be decided at one sitting, expect the unexpected in unprecedented fashion:

“In many ways, the USA’s pitch is similar to that of England: after all the excitement of South Africa, a new continent and all that, come back to safety and security, well organised events, that will also be very profitable. And the more problems the South Africans have, in transport, in stewards walking away from sites, the more the attractive USA becomes compared to its 2022 opponents where Qatar is making  most of the running.

“At the end of the day, the winners in 2018 and 2002 will depend on deals made after FIFA announces the voting procedure in October. And the Americans will do all the running on this.

“How ironic, the new world will decide which country of the world has 2018. It will show football is like politics after all.”

June 17, 2010   1 Comment

Clark a World Cup starter for U.S. vs. England

The lineup sheets are coming out, and Atlanta soccer standout Ricardo Clark has been named to start against England Saturday in the World Cup opening match for the United States.

The rest of Bob Bradley’s starters: GK — Tim Howard; D — Steve Cherundolo, Jay DeMerit, Oguchi Onyewu, Carlos Bocanegra; M — Landon Donovan, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey; F — Jozy Altidore, Robbie Findley.

Findley, a late addition to the American squad, was a surprise to make it to South Africa, and certainly a surprise for this match too. His speed is his greatest asset, as Bradley seeks to replace the same qualities to feature with Altidore after the loss of Charlie Davies.

And the England XI selected by manager Fabio Capello: GK — Robert Green; D — Glen Johnson, John Terry, Ledley King, Ashley Cole; M — Aaron Lennon, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, James Milner; F — Wayne Rooney, Emile Heskey.

Clark will be busy as a holding midfielder contending with England’s Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, along with the speedy winger Aaron Lennon.

A couple of live chats that are ongoing during the match if you’re interested: From an American perspective; and from England.

The pregame show is on now in the U.S. on ABC; with kickoff around 2:30 p.m.

Former Atlanta Thrashers announcer J.P. Dellacamera, who’s called plenty of international soccer and World Cup matches, is interviewed by my ex-AJC colleague John Manasso at foxsportsouth.com.

Dellacamera is calling the U.S.-England match today for ESPN Radio.

Update: The final from Rustenberg is 1-1, with Clark playing all 90 minutes. He got turned easily on Gerrard for the England goal, but that was set up by a bad pass by Michael Bradley.

American defense showed some cracks, and Tim Howard deservedly was named man of the match in the nets, but the U.S. nets a very valuable point against a top-notch foe.

June 12, 2010   No Comments

AtlantaSoccerNews.Net is ‘Talkin’ Fútbol’ during the World Cup!

AtlantaSoccerNews.Net creator and managing editor Wendy Parker (that’s me) will appear on Comcast Sports Southeast during the World Cup to discuss soccer’s biggest event and the impact of the sport here in Atlanta, the Southeast and the United States.

The preview segment will air at 6 and 10 p.m. ET Wednesday (that’s tonight) on CSS’ signature “Sports Nite” program with host Bob Neal. Starting next week, the segments will air every Friday, also at 6 and 10 p.m., through the end of the World Cup.

Many of you in Atlanta know Neal as a veteran announcer who’s called many college and pro sports, but he’s also a big soccer aficionado. He was the play-by-play man for the second edition of the North American Soccer League’s Atlanta Chiefs when they were owned by Ted Turner. Neal also called games from the 1990 World Cup in Italy for TNT, when he was paired with former Atlanta Falcons placekicker Mick Luckhurst.

Our first program focuses heavily on the U.S. opener on Saturday against England, the health of American defender (and former Clemson standout) Oguchi Onyewu, the importance of Landon Donovan and discussion about the World Cup favorites.

So stay tuned all through the World Cup and let your soccer-loving friends know where to watch too!

And please visit AtlantaSoccerNews.Net often for the latest coverage of the world’s game in the heart of the Sun Belt.

June 9, 2010   No Comments

Where does Clark fit in U.S. World Cup plans?

Atlanta soccer star Ricardo Clark played all 90 minutes for the U.S. Saturday in its 3-1 win over Australia. Soccer America’s Ridge Mahoney tried to make the case for the former AFC Lightning and St. Pius X standout’s inclusion in Bob Bradley’s starting lineup against England, though it’s a mixed assessment:

“Aside from being knocked ass over teakettle in that first-half tackle, Clark did nothing spectacular. To the tasks assigned to him, however, he did most of them well.”

Mahoney figures that Clark Michael Bradley, Maurice Edu and Jose Torres all will get a look during group play. If, and how, that will play out remains a mystery, with five days before the Americans’ World Cup debut.

June 8, 2010   No Comments

Clark features in final U.S. World Cup tuneup

The current pride of Atlanta soccer, midfielder Ricardo Clark, did get 90+ minutes for the U.S. World Cup team Saturday in the Americans’ 3-1 friendly win over Australia.

But Clark, the AFC Lightning and St. Pius X product, came out with just a few seconds remaining in stoppage time, holding what appeared to be a tight hamstring. Clark has been injured in recent weeks and has played only sparingly since joining Eintracht Frankfurt.

In his instant analysis of the match, Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl, who was on the scene in Roodeport, South Africa, asks this:

“Was Ricardo Clark’s 90 minutes today a sign that he’ll start ahead of Maurice Edu or José Torres against England? (Probably, though Clark had his rough spots against Australia.)”

Edson Buddle’s two goals were a pleasant surprise, given his unlikely inclusion before the Charlie Davies injury, while Herculez Gomez added the final goal late on a terrific ball in the box from Landon Donovan.

The set-piece defending by the Americans was disturbing, and not just because it led to the Aussies’ only goal.

What a week it’s going to be to speculate on what lineup U.S. coach Bob Bradley will put on the field in Rustenberg against England seven days from now.

June 5, 2010   No Comments

Atlanta Soccer Challenge ticket discount ending

The early-bird discount for tickets to the Atlanta International Soccer Challenge ends on Sunday, June 6.

Through midnight Sunday, individual tickets to the July 28 match at the Georgia Dome between Club América and Manchester may be purchased for $25.

Starting on Monday, tickets will be priced between $40 and $115 each.

Discounted tickets can be ordered online via Ticketmaster, while Georgia Soccer is handling group ticket requests.

The AISC match will be the third soccer friendly to be staged at the Dome, following last summer’s matches pitting the Mexican national team against Mexico, and Club América vs. AC Milan.

Each of those matches drew more than 50,000 spectators, boosting Atlanta’s efforts to be included in the U.S. Soccer Federation’s bid for either the 2018 or 2022 World Cup.

This summer’s event is designed to boost Atlanta’s spectator soccer profile further. Atlanta is one of 18 American cities included in the U.S. bid.

FIFA will determine host nations for both World Cups in December.

June 4, 2010   No Comments

Clark makes official U.S. World Cup roster

The inclusion of Atlanta’s own Ricardo Clark to the 23-man U.S. World Cup roster was no surprise, but some of the other picks by coach Bob Bradley that were unveiled Wednesday did send some shock waves through the American soccer Tweetosphere.

No Brian Ching or Eddie Johnson up front, but Edson Buddle and Robbie Findley are in. So is Herculez Gomez, who scored in Tuesday’s 4-2 friendly loss to the Czech Republic.

No Chad Marshall or Heath Pearce in the back, but Clarence Goodson. And Oguchi Onyewu, injured most of the season for A.C. Milan (remember his formal introduction at the Georgia Dome last summer?) and who saw his first action in seven months last night.

In midfield, DaMarcus Beasley is in after nearly falling completely out of favor several months ago. Out are Sacha Kljestan, who was a borderline case for making the team, and Robbie Rogers, whom many pundits thought would be included.

In reality, Bradley didn’t have many options with injuries, including Clark, who got in a few games at the end of Eintracht Frankfurt’s season in the German Bundesliga. Speedy forward Charlie Davies was ruled out of the World Cup because of a long recovery following a near-fatal auto accident.

Before he got hurt, Clark was featuring plenty as the U.S. starting midfielder (along with Michael Bradley, the coach’s son). But the return of Maurice Edu adds to the decisions the elder Bradley will have to make about his regulars, and especially his lineup in the June 12 opener against England.

Defensively is where the U.S. looks particularly vulnerable, Onyewu’s fitness aside. The mistakes in the back against the Czechs can’t give Bradley much confidence at all. Tim Howard will have to be nothing short of amazing in the nets.

Up front, Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey are absolutely essential for the U.S., and big striker Jozy Altidore, who has shown some promise, needs to start living up to it. He and Davies were starting to click before that terrible accident, and Bradley has tried to compensate for the loss of Davies’ speed with Findley and Gomez.

On paper, this team may not be any better or worse than the 2006 team that crashed out of Germany in the group stage. The group in South Africa doesn’t appear to be as difficult, but the Americans can’t afford to assume anything about anybody they play.

In this segment that introduced the players ESPN’s Bob Ley didn’t ask Bradley any questions about whom he left out of the roster, but here are some later explanations from the coach about his final decisions.

May 26, 2010   No Comments

Clark trying to get fit for World Cup

At the U.S. World Cup training camp in Princeton, N.J., Soccer By Ives correspondent Franco Panizo talks to Ricardo Clark and his battle to get fully healthy after recovering from a calf strain that sidelined him for most of the winter and spring:

“I feel ready, I have the mentality that I’m always going to be ready. I played the last three games of the season, played full 90 minutes and felt fit so I think I’ll be good for this camp.”

May 19, 2010   No Comments

U.S. formalizes World Cup bid

The “book” has been handed over in Zurich, by U.S. defender Carlos Bocanegra, and into the hands of the folks at FIFA who in December will choose the host countries for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments.

Atlanta, of course, is one of the 18 venue cities included in the bid, both for games as as the city for an international broadcast center. The World Cup draw would be held in Miami with the opening match in the montrous House That Jerry Jones Built in the Big D.

The BBC breaks down the bidding field of nations, including the oddsmakers’ lines. They’re not so good for the U.S. in 2018, but there isn’t a line for the Yanks in ‘22. What’s up with that?

Of course, if it is later rather than sooner, maybe Arthur Blank will have a new Falcons stadium.

If the Brits don’t get the World Cup in ‘18, after the Beckham Factor on display in Switzerland, then they’re never going to get it again. Jeez, even The Daily Telegraph gives him some op-ed space for all this

And these “books” look about as thick as Congressional legislation, don’t they? Will Sepp Blatter and the Lords of FIFA be inclined go through these any more than the garden variety Capitol Hill backbencher?

After all, Josep has publicly said he does like the bid by Qatar, for the purely political reason of having the World Cup in the Arab world, and therefore expanding his geographical power base from one end of Asia to another.

You know where to keep up with the Atlanta World Cup efforts at its Web site and Facebook page. Here’s a list of local tournaments, festivals and other events in Atlanta tied to the bid effort.

And here’s the U.S. bid’s promo video that may or not get a look in Zurich with decision day less than seven months away:

May 14, 2010   No Comments

Clark on provisional U.S. World Cup squad

Former AFC Lightning and St. Pius X standout Ricardo Clark was selected as expected today for the initial 30-man U.S. World Cup roster by coach Bob Bradley.

Bradley must pare his final roster to 23 before embarking on South Africa. Clark recently made his debut for Eintracht Frankfurt in the German Bundesliga after coming over from the Houston Dynamo of MLS.

But he’s been battling injuries for most of the season, and there’s quite a bit of competition in the defensive midfield. It was Maurice Edu, the talented member of Scottish champion Glasgow Rangers, who was unable to go to the Confederations Cup last summer because of injury, paving the way for Clark to make his biggest international impression to date.

Not making the U.S. roster was forward Charlie Davies, who is recovering from a horrific car crash last summer that nearly killed him. Doctors wouldn’t clear him for action, and the only way he could play in the World Cup now is to get a special roster exemption that FIFA allows but that is rarely employed.

May 11, 2010   No Comments