"FIFA is a very exclusive club," said Howard Samuels, president of the North American Soccer League, "and the United States is not a member of the club."
That statement accurately describes the relationship of this country's soccer organizations to FIFA, the world governing body of soccer and one of the strongest sporting associations in the world. Since its inception in 1904, the International Federation of Football Associations has rigidly ruled the game, and today it is expected to name Mexico as the host nation for the 1986 World Cup.
The announcement should end officially what has been a furious two months of lobbying following Colombia's forfeiture in January of the 1986 World Cup. The United States, Canada and Mexico immediately submitted bids to be host for the Cup, but FIFA dismissed the U.S. and Canadian proposals March 31, leaving Mexico, the 1970 World Cup host, the only applicant.
The United States Soccer Federation protested the decision, and sent a delegation this week to the FIFA meetings in Stockholm to lobby for a postponement of the decision. USSF President Gene Edwards heads the delegation, which includes former secretary of state Henry Kissinger, World Cup Chairman Werner Fricker, Samuels, NASL Commisioner Phil Woosnam, Pele and Franz Beckenbauer. But soccer officials privately express little hope of success.
"FIFA is accountable to nobody and its members do what they think is appropriate," said Team America owner Robert Lifton. "The United States has no clout with FIFA, and you have to be a member of the group to get anywhere."
FIFA, based in Zurich, oversees all the major soccer tournaments--everything from the World Cup to hundreds of youth tournaments. Joao Havelange of Brazil, the president since 1974, is the first non-European to hold the post.
FIFA also maintains 22-member executive and World Cup committees, which U.S. officials have blamed for the dismissal of the North American bids. Five representatives of Spanish-speaking countries, including two Mexicans, sit on the World Cup committee.
In contrast, the United States seldom has held executive power since joining FIFA in 1913. James McGuire sat on the executive and World Cup committees in 1974 as USSF president, and Edwards is a member of the amateur committee, but neither has wielded much power within FIFA