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U.S. Soccer Federation Will Resume Its Quest for the 1994 World Cup

December 09, 1987|RANDY HARVEY | Times Staff Writer

Unable since 1950 to go to soccer's World Cup, the United States has changed its tactics. It now is attempting to bring the World Cup to the United States.

If the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) is successful in its bid for the 1994 World Cup, soccer insiders speculate that the semifinals would be played in the Coliseum and the Rose Bowl, with the final in the Rose Bowl.

But the USSF first must convince the executive committee of the Federation Internationale de Football Associations (FIFA) to award the World Cup to the United States. Unlike the Olympics, the World Cup is awarded to a country, not a city.

USSF officials will resume their efforts at FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland, Thursday, when they make their second presentation at a reception for the 22-member executive committee.

On Saturday, the executive committee will preside over the draw for the 1990 World Cup, which has been awarded to Italy. Of 112 countries that will begin regional qualifications next year, 22 will earn berths in Italy.

Thom Meredith, a USSF spokesman, said this presentation will be more informal than the first, which was made in September and included a 481-page technical document.

The highlight of this presentation, Meredith said, will be the videotape of a recent White House meeting between President Reagan and FIFA President Joao Havelange of Brazil. In the soccer world, that was the real superpower summit.

Also expected to make presentations this week are representatives from the other two candidates, Brazil and Morocco. Chile recently withdrew its bid for financial reasons.

The executive committee will select the host country at a June 30 meeting in Zurich.

Between now and then, a FIFA site selection committee will visit the three countries. The committee is scheduled to come to the United States in late March or early April, when it will tour 18 stadiums that the USSF has selected. If the United States wins the bid, the USSF will designate 12 of the stadiums for use in the 3-week, 52-match tournament.

USSF officials say that it is premature to predict which stadiums would be selected for the semifinals and the final, but it is no secret that FIFA was impressed with the Rose Bowl as a soccer venue during the 1984 Summer Olympics.

More people attended soccer than any other sport during the Olympics. That included the three largest crowds ever to see the sport in the United States, all at the Rose Bowl. There were 101,799 for the final, 100,374 for the semifinals and 97,451 for a preliminary game between France and Yugoslavia.

With a few modifications, the Rose Bowl and the Coliseum would meet FIFA standards, which includes a capacity of 30,000 to 40,000 for preliminary matches and 60,000 to 80,000 for the semifinals and the final, a 115 x 75-yard field and natural grass.

"You need two stadiums in the same general area for the semifinals, and then you choose one for the final," said Scott LeTellier, a member of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce Sports Council's World Cup subcommittee. "For one of the first times in history, the Rose Bowl and the Coliseum are working together on this.

"Ideally, both of them would be used for the semifinals. Then, on the dead night between the semifinals and final, a concert would be held in the stadium that isn't being used for the final. In Madrid (in 1982), they had a Rolling Stones concert in one of the stadiums the night before the final. I can see stadium management saying, 'Forget the final; give us the concert.' "

South Florida also is campaigning for the semifinals and final. The USSF has selected four stadiums from that region, including the Orange Bowl in Miami, Joe Robbie Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Tampa Stadium in Tampa Bay and the Citrus Bowl in Orlando.

Robbie, owner of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in the now-defunct North American Soccer League, had Robbie Stadium constructed so that it could be converted for World Cup play.

"One advantage the Rose Bowl has is that it seats more than 100,000, while Robbie Stadium seats 75,000," LeTellier said. "Those 25,000 extra seats might make a difference to FIFA when tickets for the final are going for triple figures."

Danny Villanueva, chairman of the Sports Council's subcommittee, said that areas within the United States should not compete with each other until the bid is won.

"First, we have to get it in the United States," he said.

Speculation in the European and South American press is that the USSF would have to make significant mistakes between now and June to lose. To assure that does not happen, the USSF has hired Eddie Mahe Jr. and Associates, Washington political consultants, to orchestrate the campaign. They arranged the Reagan-Havelange meeting, in which the President, trying to win another for the Gipper, told a story involving Knute Rockne and soccer.

Traditionally, the World Cup alternates between Europe and the Americas. As the 1990 World Cup will be in Italy, it is the Americas' turn in 1994.

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