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U.S. say rules need to change before any new World Cup bid

By Keith Weir

LONDON (Reuters) - The United States would not bid again to host soccer's World Cup unless the rules were changed to clarify how the tournament is awarded, the head of the U.S. Soccer Federation said on Wednesday.

The Americans, who hosted the tournament in 1994, were one of the four countries who lost out to tiny Qatar in the contest to stage the 2022 finals and there had been speculation that they would bid again for the next tournament, underlining the country's status as a growing influence in the game.

However, USSF president Sunil Gulati, who is also on the FIFA executive committee, said: "The rules need to change, the procedures need to be very different from they are now."

Gulati said the Americans would not bid if the main aim was, for example, to take the sport to new markets as in the case of Qatar. He also said there needed to be clarity on the rotation policy between different parts of the world.

"The rules need to be clearer, tighter. The process need to be better," he told the Leaders in Football Conference.

Should the U.S. go ahead with a bid for the 2026 World Cup, Mexican League President Decio De Maria said his country could play a role. "Do it with some Mexican cities there," he said in a panel discussion with Gulati.

FIFA is reviewing whether to move the 2022 tournament to winter from its normal June-July slot because of the unforgiving heat in Qatar's summer.

The governing body has been criticized for failing to take the heat into account when the tournament was awarded, raising broader concerns about a lack of transparency in the bidding process.

Officials involved in England's failed bid for 2018 were also frustrated that they went through the whole bidding process only to be told after Russia got the nod that FIFA had wanted to take the tournament to a new region.

FIFA has said already said decisions on future World Cup hosts will be made by its full 200-plus national associations, rather than relying on the executive committee.

Hosting the World Cup in 1994 helped the game to take root in the United States, leading to the creation of the Major League Soccer competition that was given a further boost by the high-profile arrival of former England captain David Beckham.

With the sport growing in popularity in schools, Gulati suggested that the American game was in good shape following the retirement of Beckham, who played for LA Galaxy.

"The growth of the game is unstoppable," he said, citing average crowd figures of 18,000 for MLS games.

"The atmosphere at Portland and Seattle games is as good as anywhere in the world."

(Writing by Keith Weir, 44 20 7542 8022)

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