Soccer's world governing body selected the tiny Middle Eastern nation of Qatar - the smallest country to ever bid for a World Cup - to host its premiere event in 2022, bypassing the U.S. bid, which included Nashville.
The announcement from Zurich, Switzerland, left a crowd of Nashville business and political leaders in the press box at LP Field in stunned silence. Qatar and the U.S. were seen as the top contenders for the 2022 World Cup heading into this week's final push. Other bidding nations included Australia, Japan and South Korea.
Nashville was one of the U.S. Soccer Federation's 18 finalist cities to host games had the U.S. earned the right to organize the event. Convention and Visitors Bureau chief Butch Spyridon served as the Music City's point man and suggested something nefarious was afoot with Qatar's selection - especially when paired with FIFA's choice of Russia to host the 2018 edition.
"Somebody ought to ask some questions," he said moments after the announcement aired.
But, Spyridon said, Nashville's foray into world sport could end up working out in the long run.
"We'll host some future soccer games at this facility. We've built a great relationship with U.S. Soccer," he said.
Chamber of Commerce CEO Ralph Schulz said Nashville's participation in the U.S. bid put the city on the map - quite literally.
"There was a lot of value in participating. There are publications talking about this, you pick them up, they have maps and Nashville's on it. Nashville is in the article," he said.
The bid, he said, showed that Nashville has the infrastructure in place to host major events, which will pay dividends down the road with capital committed to the World Cup effort now free to be used for other events.
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