U.S. Soccer Is Optimistic Fans Will Travel to Qatar

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Qatar 2022 will be unusual in many ways: The first World Cup in the Middle East will take place in the middle of the regular club season and allow fans a unique opportunity to see more than one match a day in the smallest country, ever to host the event.

For those who are traveling from the U.S. to follow the men’s national team, Qatar will be not only be a blessing after Russia 2018, when the USMNT failed to qualify, but also a big improvement after Brazil in 2014. “I think USMNT traveled the most during the group stage (in Brazil) because we played in Natal, then in Manaus and Recife,” said Josh Concon, U.S. Soccer’s ticketing manager. USMNT and fans flew about 9,000 miles in the three round-trip flights between game sites and their training facility in Sao Paulo.

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In Qatar, things will be different. The farthest stadium is 46 miles away from the city center, and the average travel time between stadiums is approximately one hour by car. “Potentially, fans can eat up as many as two matches a day, and FIFA would allow it,” Concon said.

The second round of ticket sales for the World Cup in Qatar kicked off on April 8 and will close on April 28. Fans can buy tickets for up to two matches per day at the beginning of the group stage. A random draw will allocate tickets, and the fans will be notified by May 31. FIFA is also offering supporter tickets and conditional supporter tickets for the first time for self-declared followers of a qualified country who want to sit with fellow team fans.

During this stage, USMNT fans can go through FIFA allocation or buy tickets from USMNT directly. “We’ve had fans who have applied through the FIFA method but now want to apply through us,” Concon said.

To buy these tickets, fans need to be registered in the U.S. Soccer Insiders program. Being an insider is free, but there are also paid tiers. “If we have more tickets requested by insiders than in our allotment, we will conduct a draw for tickets,” Concon said. “The higher tiers of insiders have a better chance to be selected for tickets, but again, it’s still all a computer-generated draw.”

Ticket prices vary, but according to FIFA’s website, they can be as cheap as $70. In line with FIFA’s ticketing policy at recent World Cups, Qatar residents will have exclusive access to Category 4 tickets, with prices starting at just QAR 40, or $10.

But tickets are only one part of the trip. According to estimates, Qatar could be the most expensive World Cup. Qatar Airways’ cheapest World Cup package is $3,800, which includes flight, accommodations for four nights, and tickets for two matches among the available offerings. According to Berhold Trenkel, chief operating officer of the government-run Qatar Tourism, fans without game tickets will not be allowed into Qatar during the tournament because of accommodation concerns.

Qatar’s Supreme Committee recently announced that a variety of new accommodations are offered through its site, including hotels, tents and cruise ships docked in the Persian Gulf. Back in December Brian Hexsel, chapter chairman and travel manager for the American Outlaws, the fan organization that supports USMNT, told Sportico that the process of organizing the group’s trip to Qatar has been challenging and expensive. Compared to $7,000 for three weeks in Brazil, Hexsel got quotes between $12,000 to $20,000 per person.

But Concon is still optimistic about attendance. “It is too early to guess how many tickets have been sold after the first 10 days; we’re still gathering numbers, but it seems to be positive initially,” he said.

“Fans still have two more weeks to submit their application,” he said, adding, “we know U.S. fans will travel and support the team wherever we play in the world, especially after missing out on Russia.”

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