By Simon Evans
MIAMI (Reuters) - The United States was beaten by Qatar in a World Cup 2022 hosting vote that was about politics, friendships, alliances and tactics, U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati said on Thursday.
The U.S. reached the final round but lost 14-8 in the voting by FIFA's executive committee in Zurich and Gulati said it was obvious there had been many political moves among delegates.
"It's politics, it's friendships and relationships, it's alliances, it's tactics," he told a teleconference with U.S-based reporters.
"There are far too many permutations, especially with two World Cups being decided on the same day, and I am not smart enough to figure out how all those played out in these two elections," he added.
But Gulati said the voting figures indicated alliances and tactical voting were behind the final result rather than straightforward opting for preferences.
"It is clear and it has been widely reported over the past several months that there was the possibility of some alliances and the numbers would seem to bear that out," he said.
Qatar won the right to host the 2022 finals after beating off opposition from Australia, Japan and South Korea as well as the United States after four rounds of voting.
Asked for his thoughts on the heavily-criticized process and whether it was time to reform the system of choosing hosts, Gulati added:
"It's obviously not the way certain things are done in the U.S. or in other parts of the world, and it is the way things are done in different parts of the world frankly, and I had some discussions with some of our competitors about that.
"I am sure FIFA will look at what has happened over the last couple of months and the last two years of this process and decide how they want to go forward but I am not going to comment on that at this stage," he said.
There was a less diplomatic reaction from former U.S. international Eric Wynalda, now a television commentator, who was clearly angered by the voting.
"Is this about soccer or about natural gas and oil? That's what has just won... they have just bought the World Cup," he said on Fox Soccer Channel immediately following the vote.
Qatar, who committed in their bid document to FIFA to building nine new stadiums and renovating three grounds at a total cost of about $3 billion, is the world's largest exporter of liquefied natural gas and a major oil producer.
But others in the U.S. game, while clearly disappointed at missing out on a chance to host the finals a second time after 1994, hoped some good could come out of Qatar's victory.
"Obviously we're disappointed, there were tireless efforts put in by the U.S. bid committee," said Mark Abbott, president of Major League Soccer.
"The power of the World Cup to transform the way people think about countries and the way development happens in countries is powerful and I expect it will have a very positive impact for that country."
(Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Ken Ferris)