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Why, of all the countries in the world, did the US catch FIFA?

On May 27 the US Department of Justice arrested seven officials from FIFA, the governing body of international soccer. Only hours after the arrests, Swiss officials followed suit and opened a parallel investigation concerning the bidding process for the 2018 Russia and the 2022 Qatar World Cups. Both countries have a good chance of losing their respective events if there is any proof that they bribed FIFA officials.

FIFA’s arrest came as no surprise. FIFA has always had a less than ideal ethical code, not that this has ever stopped anyone from watching soccer. Look at it this way: it is kind of like how everyone knows McDonald’s chicken nuggets are not actually made of any recognizable form of chicken meat, but we still buy them because you can get 20 for $5. In the same manner, the world loves soccer and no matter who oversees it (crime lords in this case), the consumer is not deterred.

Exploitation of the entire world was going fairly well for FIFA until recently when something strange happened: the United States of America decided to like soccer.

America has long taken the backseat in international soccer. Soccer has never attracted the attention of the big three (football, basketball and baseball), and only recently has it been able to compete, television ratings and attendance numbers wise, with second-tier sports like hockey and NASCAR. Over the last 20 or so years, thanks to the US’ moderate success in international play and foreign players deciding to join inferior, yet better-paying MLS teams, the popularity of soccer has steadily risen.

Like any nation whose citizens have taken a liking to soccer (that is literally every nation), the US wants to host the World Cup. Yet even more naturally, FIFA opted to give it to their highest briber instead, a practice that has proven extremely lucrative in the past. Missing out on the World Cup is disappointing for any country given soccer’s massive international following, but given soccer’s growing popularity in the US, being withheld the world cup means being withheld buckets of money; and the US loves buckets of money. This led to the US launching a full investigation into FIFA’s bidding process. If the US is going to miss out on money, you can always bet something will get investigated.

That is what inspired the US to investigate FIFA and is also what makes this whole scandal the most American thing ever. They were not getting what they wanted (those buckets of money) so they promptly decided to expose FIFA as the international crime family that it is.

While soccer has sustained great popularity throughout the world for many years, the US did not seem to be concerned by FIFA until it was possible that they might be losing money. Then, and only then, did they decide it was fine time someone popped the hood on the FIFA-Mobile and got a better look at exactly how it was being run.

Why did it take so long for someone to catch FIFA? Why did not any other counties where soccer is much more popular do it first? Well, no one can really say. All we know is this: never try to stand between the US and international cash flow.

The dirty FIFA executives will likely lose their jobs, but they should not be concerned with finding work. The NCAA has plenty of positions that require their exact skill set.

Photo Credit: Reuters/Arnd Wiegmann/Files

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