So why is Kraft so in to soccer?

Our Metro folks had today’s press conference on the U.S.’ bid for the 2018 or ’22 World Cup, and Boston’s bid to be a host city covered.

The U.S. will have to fight off competition from Belgium/Netherlands, England, Russia and Portugal/Spain (they’re bidding in each of those), as well as Australia, Japan, Qatar and South Korea (2022 only). Boston is vying with Atlanta, Baltimore, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Nashville, Miami, New York/New Jersey, Philadelphia, Phoenix/Glendale, San Diego, Seattle, Tampa Bay, Washington to among the American host cities, should the U.S. win the bid.

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But what I was just as interested in today was Patriots owner Robert Kraft’s long-standing fascination with international soccer. Remember, he also owns the Revolution, was among the founding father of MLS, and has even been rumored as a possible future owner in the English Premier League. Pretty interesting, too, to see him on a Board of Directors list for this bid that also includes Arnold Schwarzenegger, Brad Pitt, Spike Lee and Henry Kissinger. So where did this all start?

“My main business was international, so I would travel overseas,” Kraft said, “and I never forget, I was in England and I wanted to get tickets to the Royal Albert Music Hall, which was very difficult. And I was able to get tickets easily, and then I found out – this was in the ’70s – it was because World Cup was on television and all these countries shut down when World Cup goes on.

“So that’s why I said, ‘We gotta try to get (the World Cup) here.’ …. What was amazing to us (in 1994), and that’s what helped us realize we had to do Major League Soccer, you saw people coming down from all ethnic groups and that’s the future of America. And you see soccer brings the world together like no other sport. That’s when we decided to invest in it, and we carried for a number of years – We’re playing in our 15th season now – and people didn’t think it would last.

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“But you see someone like (Revolution exec and former US national player) Mike Burns, and you see the best player on the US team, Clint Dempsey, played for the Revolution. And then we allowed him to go to Europe and go to the next level – He doesn’t like me saying that. We hope to be at the level of the premier league, but we’re getting there.”


So what else does Kraft remember from ’94? Well, he remembers there being 27 cities wanting to host games, and what it took for Boston to be among the nine winning bids.
“We were the last one chosen,” he said. To be frank, part of it was the support, because the stadium was not really worthy. It was amazing. … We actually were the last people to get the bid in. I think there were 27 stadiums in the U.S., and that was really a good sales job. It was the old stadium, it was built for $6 million, didn’t have adequate men’s rooms and ladies’ rooms. We were the last venue.”
The point Kraft is making, of course, is that this area is far better equipped now, with Gillette Stadium, to host this even than it was then.
Anyway, it’s clear Kraft’s putting a pretty serious effort into this. And he believes in the concept.
“I think the next time it comes to the US, it’ll be unbelievable,” he said. “That’s why I really hope it can happen in ’18 but the high probability because of how these things are done is that it won’t be done until ’22. But I did have that conversation at our last bid committee meeting with Kissinger, trying to get him to use his influence. I said (referencing the former secretary of state’s age), ‘95 is a better age to be watching it than 99.’”