How Sunil Gulati Saved Humanity From Sepp Blatter and the U.S. Hosted the 2022 World Cup

A not unlikely scenario involving Qatar’s lunar aspirations, Sepp’s madness, President Howard… and Sunil Gulati, Space Hero?

Illustration via The San Diego Air and Space Museum

Editor’s note: This piece appeared in our Winter 2015 issue. Grab a copy here.

JULY 2015

Goals from Julian Green and Gyasi Zardes lead the U.S. to a 2–0 victory over Mexico in the Gold Cup final. In Chile, Lionel Messi lifts the Copa América trophy — and is jeered by Argentine fans: ¿Donde está tu Copa Mundial?

JANUARY 2016

The latest NSA leaks confirm that all 14 FIFA members who voted for Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup were given a gold-plated suitcase filled with one million dollars and, oddly, promised “part of the moon.”

JULY 2016

Spain, led by Thiago Alcântara and Álvaro Morata, goes undefeated in winning the European Championship. Meanwhile, Lusail City, host of the 2022 World Cup Final, still does not exist.

JUNE 2017

Sepp Blatter announces that the 2022 World Cup will be played in winter. He ends the press conference by putting on a Santa hat, climbing onto a sleigh pulled by humans in reindeer costumes, and bellowing, “My gift to you — Merry Christmas!”

Gulati appears on Good Morning America after being observed for three weeks in a facility somewhere in New Mexico. “We all thought he was crazy,” he tells host Alex Morgan about Blatter, before turning darkly serious. “Well, he was.”

JULY 2018

As mandated by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, host Russia plays a 1–2–7 formation, losing all three World Cup games without scoring a goal. Argentina wins. At the trophy presentation, Messi is greeted by fans chanting, ¡Queremos Maradona!

SEPTEMBER 2019

Scientists universally declare the end of “seasons,” saying we now must think of the year-round climate as “varying degrees of summer.”

FEBRUARY 2020

Despite continued progress with “soft power” international relations, Qatar announces it has annexed the moon.

APRIL 2020

Blatter declares that the 2022 World Cup will be played on the moon, which remains un-colonized. He concludes his press conference by putting on a tinfoil hat and saying in a strained Martian voice, “The World Cup will be out of this world.”

NOVEMBER 2020

A FIFA delegation, including Blatter and Sunil Gulati, departs on a lunar voyage aboard Qatar’s Lusail II to survey progress of the facilities for 2022. The ship disappears under mysterious circumstances.

FEBRUARY 2021

An intercontinental democratic committee assumes control of FIFA and awards the 2022 World Cup to the United States. President Tim Howard directs emergency funding to revamp the nation’s vacant football stadiums — which have been used for nothing but Taylor Swift concerts and monster truck rallies since the NFL’s dissolution four years prior.

APRIL 2022

NASA radars detect a UFO entering Earth’s atmosphere. After landing in a remote location in the Gulf of Mexico, a wobbly Gulati emerges from the wreckage. He has gained nearly 200 pounds, the result of surviving on the crates upon crates of beef jerky Blatter had insisted on bringing to the moon two years before. Gulati appears on Good Morning America after being observed for three weeks in a facility somewhere in New Mexico. “We all thought he was crazy,” he tells host Alex Morgan about Blatter, before turning darkly serious. “Well, he was.” Gulati refuses to discuss the circumstances of the voyage’s disappearance, citing “advanced algorithms you wouldn’t understand” when asked how he managed to pilot the ship back to Earth, and ends the interview with a curt, “Have you ever been inside a quasar, Alex? I didn’t think so.”

JULY 2022

Goals from Julian Green and Gyasi Zardes lead the United States to a 2–0 victory over Mexico in the World Cup final.


Ryan O’Hanlon is an editor at Grantland. Tell him he’s a genius at @rwohan.