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Esther J. Cepeda Headshot

U.S. Makes Official Bid to Host the World Cup: The Chicago Connection

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OK, rewind back to 1994 and feel it with me: NAFTA went into effect, Tonya Harding mob-styled Nancy Kerrigan, feisty Ecuadorian Lorena Bobbitt got off on an insanity plea after chopping of her husband John's johnson, the Dallas Cowboys won the Super Bowl and Chicago rocked the World Cup!

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I remember it like it was yesterday, from steamy June 17 to sweltering July 17 across 9 U.S. cities. On five of those days Chicago was the center of the world - and I was in the center of it. I was there with my dad and a slew of co-workers who couldn't have given a rat's ass about the game but wanted to enjoy the party. All of us walking through the museum campus, I wore a Striker t-shirt and chatted up the officers who lined the streets mounted on horseback, the fair-haired ones were jovial enough to pose wearing giant sombreros (dad, why can't you find those pictures?!?!?!).

It was the first time the U.S. had ever hosted the World Cup and it drew a cumulative attendance of 3.5 million fans, a record at the time. That World Cup was also responsible for spurring the creation of Major League Soccer.

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Man was it awesome to be in the center of the city with soccer nutcakes from all over the world. Even Manolo el del bombo - that Spaniard guy with the big drum - was there!

Why am I bringing all this up? Jack Bell, the New York Times' ace soccer reporter wrote Monday that the "U.S. was among 12 candidates on four continents to submit bids to FIFA in the hope of hosting the 2018 or the 2022 World Cup."

Yay! No offense to my friends on the Olympics 2016 Bid committee, but this is so way cooler.

A potential U.S.-hosted World Cup would certainly (I hope) see some Chicago matches and the simple nature of the event stands in stark contrast to the 2016 Olympics which, up until now, has put stars only in the eyes of the few who stand to cash in on it.

In fact, the whole Olympics 2016 has really ticked off many of the minority group members who will be most affected by such a large expanse of Olympic village in their 'hoods. Hey, even the white people in the suburbs are ticked. For instance, out in grid-locked Central Lake County, the 2016 bid is seen as the Pain in the Butt of the Decade, should equestrian events be held there.

And, oh!, wouldn't it be a corner kick to the groin if Brazil - who's hosting the 2014 World Cup - got the 2016 Olympics?

But that's neither here nor there. Tongues are wagging because, unlike an Olympics where interest is low - until one of its' stars is caught on tape hitting a bong, that is - a World Cup requires no money for infrastructure and brings pure tourism profit for the host cities.

Plus we have an ace in the hole: one President Barack Obama. As of 8:15pm central time Tuesday, press pool reports had not quoted him as having an opinion either way, but he will surely come out in support, just as he did for the 2016 Olympic bid. He'd surely agree with U.S. organizing Committeeman David Downs who said at Monday's press briefing: "The United States was founded on diversity. The country has and will always open its arms to the citizens of the world."

Yeah, England, Russia, Qatar, Australia, Mexico, Japan, Indonesia, Egypt and South Korea are eyeing a 2018/2022 opportunity as well, but they aren't international darlings sitting in the middle of Obama-mania.

The deadline for bid paperwork is May 2010. The winning country will be named in December 2010. Esther will buy plane tickets and reserve hotel rooms for U.S. matches shortly thereafter.

Esther J. Cepeda wears size 8 soccer cleats and writes on www.600words.com