What a FIFA decision about the under-17 World Cup tells us – and reminds us

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FIFA’s Under-17 World Cup, featuring a bunch of future pros and about to start this week in United Arab Emirates, has concluded that the best way to make sure stadiums are not empty is to simply give the tickets away.

FIFA announced today that all remaining tickets can be had at no cost.

There may be an important lesson here. There is but one reason an organization chooses to give away seats: the things simply are not selling.

That could be a reminder of FIFA’s enormous risk in putting a World Cup in Qatar (in 2022, that is). In case you haven’t heard, that’s been a bit of a mess. Soccer just may not be popular enough in that part of the world. (UAE sits just across the Persian Gulf from Qatar.)

Or is the lesson something different? Is this just a reminder of something we already know, that big-time sports live and die in many ways on stars.

The FIFA under-17 World Cup will include plenty of future stars – but they aren’t stars yet. Drop a tournament with a bunch of unrecognizable names into pretty much any land, and this is what you are likely to get, a tough sale.