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Soccer DAILY REPORT

U.S. Moves Closer to Being Cup Host

May 20, 2003|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

The United States is almost certain to be selected as host country for the fourth FIFA Women's World Cup because only one other bidder for the 16-nation event, Sweden, met FIFA's midnight Sunday deadline and because the decision will be made by FIFA's Emergency Committee.

That seven-man committee, chaired by Joseph "Sepp" Blatter, FIFA's president, includes four staunch allies of Blatter -- Argentina's Julio Grondona, Paraguay's Nicolas Leoz, Trinidad and Tobago's Jack Warner and Qatar's Mohamed Bin Hammam.

Equally important, perhaps, two of the other members are political foes of Blatter: Sweden's Lennart Johansson, who ran against Blatter in the 1998 FIFA presidential election and who logically would be backing Sweden, and Issa Hayatou of Cameroon, who ran against Blatter in 2002 with Johansson's support.

Which way the other committee member, Ahongalu Fusimalohi of Tonga, is likely to vote is not known, but regardless, Blatter appears to have the four votes he would need even without his own tie-breaking vote coming into play.

Blatter has called the U.S. bid the "front-runner."

Meanwhile, Bob Contiguglia, the president of U.S. Soccer, indicated over the weekend that if the U.S. does stage the tournament as a late stand-in for SARS-stricken China, it might use more than the four stadiums originally believed to be in the running.

Those were the soon-to-open Home Depot Center in Carson, Spartan Stadium in San Jose, Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, and RFK Stadium in Washington.

During an interview with ESPN at halftime of the U.S. women's 6-0 victory over England in Birmingham, Ala., on Saturday, Contiguglia said that more than one scenario had been provided to FIFA. He told Associated Press on Monday that the U.S. might use as many as seven stadiums.

One of those is the Rose Bowl, which could stage the final, as it did in 1999.

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No matter where it is played, the Women's World Cup lost its second high-impact player Monday when it was revealed that U.S. forward Shannon MacMillan had suffered torn ligaments and cartilage in her right knee Sunday night while playing for the San Diego Spirit against the Boston Breakers in a Women's United Soccer Assn. match.

MacMillan, an Olympic gold medalist in 1996 and world champion in 1999, will undergo surgery on Wednesday and is expected to be sidelined for at least six months.

"The most difficult thing to swallow is that she is playing the best soccer of her career," said U.S. Coach April Heinrichs.

"We would be hard-pressed to find a more committed and focused player right now.... The injury couldn't have come at a worse time for Shannon and our team."

MacMillan has scored 58 goals in 153 games for the U.S., including four in a game against fellow World Cup participant Canada last month.

A month ago, 1995 world champion and 2000 Olympic gold medalist Hege Riise of Norway, the world's top playmaker, tore ligaments in her right knee while playing for the Carolina Courage in a WUSA game, also against Boston.

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