NEW YORK (July 7, 2009) - Robert Kraft, a founding investor of Major League Soccer (MLS), today accepted an invitation to join the Board of Directors for the USA Bid Committee in its efforts to bring the FIFA World Cup to the United States in 2018 or 2022.
Founder, Chairman and CEO of The Kraft Group, Kraft has established himself as one of the most successful owners in professional sports with the New England Patriots of the National Football League (NFL) and the New England Revolution of MLS. Under his ownership, the Patriots have won five conference titles and three Super Bowl championships while the Revolution is a four-time runner-up for MLS Cup, the 2007 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup champion and the 2008 SuperLiga champion.
"Robert Kraft has been a true champion for soccer in the United States and the USA Bid Committee is extremely pleased to welcome him to our Board of Directors," said Sunil Gulati, the Chairman of the USA Bid Committee and President of U.S. Soccer. "He paved the way for World Cup soccer to come to New England in 1994 and his leadership of the Revolution and within MLS has been instrumental in elevating the profile of the sport in this country."
Kraft began his association with soccer in the United States in the early 1990s when he led the successful bid for Foxboro Stadium to serve as one of the nine host venues for the 1994 FIFA World Cup. Following the success of the 1994 World Cup, the Kraft family became the founding investor/operator of the Revolution on June 6, 1995, joining MLS for its inaugural season in 1996. Kraft later privately financed the construction of Gillette Stadium, the $325 million state-of-the-art home for the Patriots and Revolution that opened in 2002.
"Being involved in the 1994 World Cup was one the most thrilling experiences of my professional career and really opened my eyes to the potential for the growth of the sport in this country," said Kraft. "Soccer continues to become more engrained in the culture of the American sports fan and I'm honored to be a part of the movement to bring the World Cup back to the United States."
Kraft has helped to make the U.S. Men's and Women's National Teams a fixture in Foxborough, Mass., as a combined total of 28 international matches involving U.S. teams have been played there since 1990. Foxborough has hosted the MLS Cup Final three times, including the 2002 final between the Revolution and the Los Angeles Galaxy played in front of the largest crowd in MLS Cup history (61,316). Kraft's contributions to MLS also include a two-season tenure as investor/operator of the San Jose Earthquakes from 1999-2000.
Beginning his relationship with the New England Patriots in 1971 when he became a season ticket holder, Kraft maintained that status for 23 years until he bought the team in 1994. Kraft's purchase of the Patriots for $172 million was an eleventh-hour deal that kept the team from moving to St. Louis and ushered in an era of dominance in which the Patriots have won more games and league championships than any other team in the NFL during that time.
Kraft is a native of Brookline, Mass., who went on to attend Columbia University on an academic scholarship. After graduation, he received a fellowship to attend Harvard Business School, earning a master's degree in business administration.
The United States, Australia, England, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico and Russia have formally declared their desire to host the FIFA World Cup™ in 2018 or 2022. Netherlands-Belgium and Portugal-Spain have each submitted joint bids for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments, while Qatar and South Korea have applied as candidates to play host only to the tournament in 2022.
All candidates must have their bid applications to FIFA by May 14, 2010. FIFA's 24 member Executive Committee will study the bids, conduct site visits and name the two hosts for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments in December 2010, completing a 21-month bid and review process.
Kraft joins the Board of Directors of the USA Bid Committee that recently welcomed U.S. Soccer Foundation President Ed Foster-Simeon, University of Miami President Donna Shalala, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, U.S. National Team icons Landon Donovan and Mia Hamm, and former U.S. Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger. In the months ahead, the USA Bid Committee will add additional national leaders from the sectors of sports, entertainment, government and business.
The USA Bid Committee's efforts also recently earned the support of President Barack Obama, who has reached out to FIFA - the world's governing body of soccer - to endorse the efforts to bring the world's largest sporting event back to the United States. In a letter to FIFA President Joseph "Sepp" Blatter and U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati, President Obama noted the role soccer played in his life as a youth, and its ability to unite people, communities and nations from every continent.
"Hosting another successful World Cup is important for the continued growth of the sport in the United States. And it is important to me personally," President Obama wrote in his letter. "As a child, I played soccer on a dirt road in Jakarta, and the game brought the children of my neighborhood together. As a father, I saw that same spirit of unity alive on the fields and sidelines of my own daughters' soccer games in Chicago."
"Soccer is truly the world's sport, and the World Cup promotes camaraderie and friendly competition across the globe," President Obama added. "That is why this bid is about much more than a game. It is about the United States of America inviting the world to gather all across our great country in celebration of our common hopes and dreams."
ABOUT U.S. SOCCER:
Founded in 1913, U.S. Soccer has helped chart the course for soccer in the USA for more than 95 years as the governing body of the sport. In this time, the Federation's mission statement has been simple and clear: to make soccer, in all its forms, a pre-eminent sport in the United States and to continue the development of soccer at all recreational and competitive levels. To that end, the sport's growth in the past two decades has been nothing short of remarkable as U.S. Soccer's National Teams have continually succeeded on the world stage while also growing the game here in the United States with the support of its members. For more information, visit ussoccer.com.
ABOUT THE USA BID COMMITTEE INC.:
The USA Bid Committee is a non-profit organization created to prepare a successful application to host the FIFA World Cup™ in 2018 or 2022 on behalf of the United States Soccer Federation. The Bid Committee will submit its comprehensive bid to FIFA by May 2010, with FIFA's 24 member Executive Committee making a decision in December 2010. Members of the USA Bid Committee in alphabetical order include former Goldman Sachs Vice Chairman (Asia) Carlos Cordeiro, U.S. Men's National Team player Landon Donovan, Executive Director David Downs, U.S. Soccer CEO and General Secretary Dan Flynn, U.S. Soccer Foundation President Ed Foster-Simeon, Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber, U.S. Soccer President and USA Bid Committee Chairman Sunil Gulati, U.S. Women's National Team former player Mia Hamm, former U.S. Secretary of State Dr. Henry Kissinger, New England Revolution and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, former Democratic National Committee National Finance Chair Philip Murphy, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and University of Miami President Donna Shalala.