|FIFA President Joseph Blatter (center) listens to a question during a press conference Thursday, one day before the draw for the 2014 soccer World Cup, in Costa Do Sauipe near Salvador, Brazil. (Yonhap News)|
South Korea was selected as the host of the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup here on Thursday.
In a vote during FIFA's Executive Committee meeting in Brazil, South Korea edged out Azerbaijan for the right to host the world's premier youth football tournament.
The U-20 World Cup will be the fourth FIFA-sanctioned competition that South Korea will stage, after the 2001 Confederations Cup; the 2002 World Cup, which it co-hosted with Japan; and the 2007 U-17 World Cup.
South Korea is the third country to host all four FIFA events, after Japan and Mexico.
The 2017 U-20 tournament will be the 21st edition, with 24 countries set to participate. New Zealand will host the 2015 tournament.
The tournament first began in 1977 and has been held every two years since. South Korea has never won the event, and its best performance remains a fourth-place finish at the 1983 competition in Mexico.
The city selection remains up for grabs. The Korea Football Association (KFA), the national governing body of the sport, said it has shortlisted nine candidates as hosts, including Seoul and Incheon, and that it will name six to eight cities as venues by the end of 2014. The local organizing committee of the tournament will be formed between late 2015 and early 2016, the KFA added.
Chung Mong-gyu, head of the KFA, said South Korea has taken an important step forward in international sports diplomacy with the successful bid in Brazil.
"Since the 2002 World Cup, I understand many have voiced concerns about our diminishing influence in football diplomacy," said Chung, who traveled to more than a dozen countries to seek support from FIFA officials and heads of national football federations.
"I think hosting this event represents a satisfactory progress in that regard," Chung added. "It's significant that we will be hosting such a major event alone, 15 years after co-hosting the World Cup with Japan."
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism in Seoul earlier said South Korea plans to use existing stadiums, built for the 2002 World Cup, for the U-20 World Cup, and will minimize government expenditures by relying on FIFA grants and the KFA's own funding to run the tournament.
After South Korea won the bid, Kim Chong, the vice minister of culture, sports and tourism in charge of sports affairs, said the U-20 tournament would provide a huge boost to South Korean sports.
"We expect hosting of this event to make a major impact not only on the football industry, but the entire sports industry," said Kim, who headed the South Korean government delegation to Brazil this week. "The tournament will also be an economical one, using infrastructure from the 2002 World Cup."
Kim noted that limiting government spending for the U-20 event will serve as "a good example" for prospective South Korean hosts of international sporting competitions. South Korea has been critical of municipalities that have bid indiscriminately for sports events without necessary means and have asked the central government for financial assistance. Officials in Seoul estimated that the 2017 tournament will require 25 billion won ($23.6 million) to run, and 13.5 billion won of the budget will be covered by the KFA and FIFA. South Korea also expects to reap around 8 billion won from ticket sales and marketing revenue. (Yonhap News)