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Venues in U.S. Kick Into Evaluation Mode

They are trying to determine whether they can stage some games this fall in the FIFA Women's World Cup.

May 08, 2003|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

With the prospect of the United States being chosen as host of the fourth FIFA Women's World Cup this fall, cities and stadiums across the country were scrambling Wednesday to see if they could stage some of the tournament's 32 matches.

Meanwhile, Sweden officially notified FIFA of its interest in holding the 16-nation event, but somewhat undermined its bid by asking for "economic guarantees so that we don't risk an economic loss by taking over a championship on such short notice."

Not helping Sweden's cause, either, is the fact that Lennart Johansson, president of the Swedish soccer federation, was involved in an acrimonious and ultimately unsuccessful election campaign last year to oust FIFA President Joseph "Sepp" Blatter.

The U.S., on the other hand, is said to be willing to spend $15 million to $20 million to stage the event and, according to Bob Contiguglia, president of U.S. Soccer and a Blatter supporter, is not necessarily concerned about making a profit.

"I don't think we would be going into this to make money, but on the other hand, we don't want to lose money," Contiguglia told the Washington Post. "If we could break even, we would be very happy."

American and FIFA officials met Tuesday in Zurich, Switzerland, and another meeting, this time by conference call, is set for Monday.

The U.S. hopes to stage the world championship -- moved out of China because of the SARS virus scare -- during its original Sept. 23-Oct. 11 time frame, and Los Angeles, Washington, Columbus, Ohio, and, possibly, San Jose are considered the front-runners to play host to the event.

But others are sending out feelers.

Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., attracted 78,972 for a doubleheader that opened the 1999 Women's World Cup and has expressed interest.

"We would love to have it," George Zoffinger, president and CEO of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, told the Newark Star-Ledger. "The issue is, how does it fit into our other commitments. I wouldn't do anything to interfere with the Giants and Jets."

Similarly, Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia has made overtures. The stadium will open with an already sold-out match between Manchester United and Barcelona on Aug. 3.

Also, Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala., wants to be considered, as does Herndon Stadium, the 15,000-seat home of the Atlanta Beat of the Women's United Soccer Assn.

The San Jose Mercury News quoted an unnamed source as saying the entire tournament could be played on the West Coast, with matches in Los Angeles, Palo Alto, San Jose, Portland and Seattle.

Until FIFA selects a host country, any speculation regarding stadiums is premature. Even one venue that is considered a lock -- the Home Depot Center in Carson -- has a problem because FIFA allows only its corporate sponsors to have advertising signs in its tournament stadiums.

In Asia, meanwhile, the Asian Football Confederation again changed the dates of its 14-nation qualifying series in Thailand, moving it to June 8-21. The top two teams will qualify, with the third-place team advancing to a playoff with Mexico for a place in the World Cup.

As host, China would automatically have qualified for the World Cup, but FIFA has not yet indicated whether it will retain that automatic status.

It is possible, if the U.S. is chosen as host, that the U.S. could be given that automatic spot, thereby allowing Mexico to qualify without a playoff and leaving the top three Asian teams, rather than two, to be certain of a place in the world championship.

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