Today, FIFA, the governing body of world football (soccer) awarded the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. This comes after allegations in the British Press of corruption and bribery.
The finalists for the World Cup in 2018 were Russia, England (for soccer purposes, the UK is four different countries), Spain-Portugal, and Belgium-Netherlands. A few days ago, the BBC's Panorama program did a report accusing FIFA officials of bribery, which FIFA officials denied.
The U.S. was a finalist for 2022, against Japan, South Korea, Australia, and Qatar. Japan and South Korea jointly hosted in 2002; the U.S. hosted in 1994 and has since emerged as a respectable soccer power, outside the upper echelon of Spain, Brazil, and Argentina, but competitive, as its entry to the second round of the most recent world cup shows.
Needless to say, England's bid was probably shot by the bribery allegations, although given British libel laws and the reputation of the BBC, I have no doubt the facts are on the side of the press on this one. Spain and Portugal struck me as strong contenders, but the 2014 Cup is hosted by a Portugese-speaking country in Brazil. Russia was a bit of a surprise, because even though it's large, it has never excelled in football other than during the days of Lev Yashin and reaching the semi-finals of Euro 2008. (Russia did not qualify for the 2010 World Cup, though.) Still, it's always a bit of a crapshoot to see who wins and who doesn't.
I thought Australia would be the U.S.'s main competition for 2022, but Qatar struck me as odd, given that it's so tiny. World Cups usually spread the venues out around a few different cities, but that's just not possible in Qatar. It's also even more authoritarian than Russia and not, in my view, entirely safe. (The threat of terrorism is always present at the World Cup, but placing the event in the Persian Gulf is a different matter altogether.)
More importantly, the recent trend has been to award the Cup to countries who were emerging as democracies or economic powers, as with South Africa and Brazil. Russia/Qatar represents an unfortunate reversal of that trend.
And, yes, I wanted to go see a match in the U.S. I'm still upset my chance to see Holland-Saudia Arabia at RFK Stadium back in 1994 fell through, and not just because I had to take an algebra final a day early to see it!