Today’s post celebrates the international sporting event that captivates billions of people every four years: the FIFA World Cup!
Every four years we get to experience the biggest sporting event on the planet and watch the very best of the beautiful game. Sadly, the U.S. national team did not qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, but we did just win the bid to co-host the 2026 World Cup with our neighbors to the north and south, Canada and Mexico.
The 2026 tournament will be our second time serving as World Cup hosts. The first time the United States hosted the World Cup was in 1994. President Bill Clinton attended the opening ceremony at Soldier Field in Chicago on June 17, 1994.
At the opening ceremony Clinton remarked:
Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, my fellow Americans, citizens of the world, the United States is honored to play host to this magnificent celebration. The World Cup has captured the imagination of our country, as has the game itself in the last few years. The love of soccer is now a universal language that binds us all together. So I welcome all who have come from all countries and all continents and all who will watch these games in the United States for the next 30 days.
We will reward with our cheers the courage and skill of all the players. Let us, in the process, come to appreciate the unity of people throughout the world that this game represents. I say especially to President Sanchez and the people of Bolivia, buena suerte today. To Chancellor Kohl and the people of Deutschland, Viel Gluck. Good luck to you all, and welcome to the United States.
He and First Lady Hillary Clinton then watched the opening match, in which Germany beat Bolivia 1-0.
Since then, the U.S. has made it to every subsequent World Cup (with the exception of 2018). And while not always present at the matches, our Presidents—and Vice Presidents—cheered them on.
Following the U.S. Men’s National Team’s stellar performance at the 2002 World Cup hosted by Korea and Japan, President George W. Bush invited the team to visit the Oval Office, where he signed a team jersey.
That year the U.S. defeated its arch rival, Mexico, in the round of 16, only to fall to Germany in the quarter-finals by a score of 0-1 (and a clear handball that denied the U.S. a goal was not called—I’m clearly still not over that).
The most recent World Cup was 2014 in Brazil, where Vice President Joe Biden actually went to a match to cheer on the U.S. men’s team as they defeated Ghana in their first game of that World Cup.
That year the U.S. again had a successful World Cup, and following its conclusion, President Barack Obama called U.S. Men’s National Team captain Clint Dempsey and goalkeeper Tim Howard to congratulate them on their team’s performance telling them they “captured the hearts and imaginations of the whole country.”
While we sit on the bench in 2018, we’ll keep our fingers crossed for 2022 qualification and look forward to hosting in 2026!
A big thanks for John Keller from the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Eric McCrory from George W. Bush Presidential for providing photos.