Soccer Officials Discuss Women's World Cup Venues
U.S. Soccer President Dr. S. Robert Contiguglia, U.S. Soccer Secretary General Dan Flynn, MLS Commissioner Don Garber, WUSA President/CEO Lynn Morgan, U.S. Women's National Team Head Coach April Heinrichs and U.S. Women's National Team Co-Captain Julie Foudy discussed the six venues for the 2003 FIFA Women's World Cup today via conference call. A full transcript is available here.
U.S. Soccer President Dr. S. Robert Contiguglia
Opening Comments/Announcement of Venues:
First, Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. in the Boston marketplace. Secondly, Columbus Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. Thirdly, The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. in Los Angeles. Next, Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa. Next, PGE Park in Portland, Ore. and finally RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.
In addition, we have been given permission from FIFA to announce that The Home Depot Center will host the final match on Oct. 12. We are considering the scheduling at this time, and cannot share with you where the opening games will be. We can tell you that the U.S. Women are planned to travel to all of the venues, should they advance to the finals.
Let me share with you a little bit about the process and the factors that were taken into consideration in getting us here. Before I do that, the enormous amount of work and time put in by several people, particularly Dan Flynn and our staff in Chicago, Don Garber and his staff and Lynn Morgan and her staff. We could not be where we are without these people. We are doing four years of work in four months of time. The amount of hours put in right now is appreciated.
There are a number of factors taken in consideration in determining who the hosts were going to be for the Women’s World Cup. We felt that it was critical to have a national footprint, and we have done that. We felt that it was critically important to have events in the WUSA and the MLS marketplaces. We have four MLS markets and three WUSA markets.
We also felt that it was important to show the world the future of soccer in the United States, namely soccer-specific stadiums. Columbus and The Home Depot Center are included with, of course, Home Depot as the final venue.
Another factor taken into consideration was that it was important to FIFA that the amount of travel time to the teams be as limited as possible. They were very concerned because during the 1999 World Cup there was more travel and there were many comments from teams about that. This tournament will have much less travel for the athletes and that was a consideration in choosing the venues. There were of course marketing issues with the stadiums, particularly with signage. FIFA requires clean stadiums and that was a major issue. Then stadium dates and conflicts with other events, concerts, etc. as well as with other sports within a particular community were taken into consideration, and even the altitude of the venues was taken into considerations.
I believe that we have an excellent group of venues. We look forward to get going and I would like to thank everyone who participated in the process. This was an undertaking and I’m pleased that we have gotten this far.
U.S. Soccer Secretary General Dan Flynn:
The process has been very rewarding, very positive for the event itself and for the women’s national team. We are glad to have it done, at least from the venue point of view at this point in time. We did have more than 40 interested communities and narrowed that down to a working number for 10 to 12.
On the number of tickets to be available to the public for the final at The Home Depot Center:
It’s roughly a 30,000-seat arena. After all of the TV seat kills, sponsor commitments and some of the security considerations we should have in the neighborhood of 23-25,000 available for the public.
On the difference between Home Depot Center and the Rose Bowl:
I think it’s a wonderful facility, and the Rose Bowl is also a wonderful facility. The challenge for everybody on the call is to get to Carson, Calif. and see The Home Depot Center. If you were there, you know this was a very easy decision. It raises the bar for the environment for the fans. Those, unfortunately, who may not be able to get a ticket will have the availability of the games on TV. That’s another area where we also need to grow is TV and TV ratings. We think it is a win-win.
On the reason Giants Stadium and the Rose Bowl were not selected:
Stadium availability was a major issue for the New York venue. That was one of the issues there. As far as Home Depot vs. the Rose Bowl for the final, clearly Home Depot represents our future. If anyone was there last weekend, it would basically be a no-brainer to say that is where the final should be. The environment was fantastic for the players and the spectators. Soccer-specific stadiums are the direction that we are taking, and Home Depot certainly symbolizes that.
On the schedule:
The scheduling is something that FIFA has to review and approve. They are very keen on the whole schedule being fair, so while we may want to arrange the schedule a certain way, it obviously is laid out considering all 16 teams and that is the role that we have to play as an organizing committee. I think it’s safe to say that we want to move our team around to each of the venues if we have the good fortune to advance that far, but I think we will be prepared to stage the event for all 16 teams. It’s up to the players and coaching staff on our women’s national team on how far we go.
On why Portland was chosen as a venue:
Clearly Portland has a great soccer tradition going back to the North American Soccer League. They continue to have a very strong college program. Most, if not all, know the name of Clive Charles, who was a significant contributor to the U.S. National Team. It’s a strong community. They, as a city, really stepped up and were very aggressive in the bid process, and they stayed and remained very aggressive. They delivered well in advance of our required deadlines and all of that worked very favorably in the process.
On the capacity of Portland’s PGE Park:
Portland will be just a little bit under 31,000 or just a little bit over 31,000 depending on our venue tour.
On why Giants Stadium did not work as a venue:
The installation timing for the grass was a big concern for the event itself and making sure we can get it firmly in place before the game. There were other challenges that came to light. Making sure that the relationships between all the parties that are using that stadium and us, and the long-term relationships we had to factor all of that it. I don’t want to pit Philadelphia right against New York, but Philadelphia was also a significant factor in the process. All of our communication with them was pretty top shelf.
We had a deadline this week that we had to get everything locked down, paperwork signed and faxed over to FIFA. The deadlines caught up to us more than any one single thing. At the end of the day we told them we need this kind of paperwork, with these kinds of conditions by this time frame, and the clock ran out. The deadline ran out about 24 hours ago.
On the Rose Bowl and Giants Stadium not hosting games:
I think we should recognize the legacy of New York just as we recognize the legacy of the Rose Bowl, but our sport continues to grow and evolve and I think we would have been in position to stage a world-class event with any of the 10-12 finalists. I think the interest was that strong, and we will focus on what is at hand with the six venues and move forward and continue to grow our sport.
On why Seattle was not selected as a venue:
With Seattle, some of the comments I made about Portland apply. They really have a very strong background in the sport. But, to be candid, Portland was equally if not more aggressive with their bid, and that made a significant difference. Seattle also had some marking constraints or issues. We worked through them to a point and essentially moved on due to Portland’s very strong bid.
The limitations really boiled down to signage commitments that they had on their side vs. what we needed to get done for the event itself. There were not conflicts with Safeco or the Seahawks that we were aware of. Those hurdles plus Portland’s impressive bid made the difference.
On why Spartan Stadium in San Jose was not selected for a venue:
In San Jose, the best way to describe it is the tournament moving east to west. FIFA is very familiar with that facility, but I think in the end they were more comfortable with the four east, two west and it just became a numbers game and the strength of the bids of Home Depot Center and Portland. I think the best way is to say with four on the East Coast and two on the West it became more of a numbers game. FIFA is very tuned in, as well as WUSA, MLS and U.S. Soccer on the width and the length of the field, but I don’t think that was an overriding factor with San Jose itself.
On when the decision was finalized to go to Philadelphia:
I think it would be fair to say we’ve been working with Joe Banner essentially, and I would add that Don Garber was working on that from a TV point of view there were several factors. But it got pretty late last night when it finally got completely done. Joe and the entire organization was really first class the entire way through the process and we had a very good feeling there were some TV things that both U.S. Soccer and obviously SUM and Don Garber had to work through. We got a good feeling, but we got all the paperwork done last evening.
On working around Philly’s afternoon games on the two Sundays:
That was certainly a major factor and we certainly thought the process from our end that we were fair in our approach and how we needed to go about it to ensure there would be games in Philadelphia. But it was a factor.
On Home Depot as the finals venue:
In terms of this point of our process we went and presented the Home Depot center to FIFA and they accepted it with the current seating structure that it has. So there will be no additions, we will go as is. We are planning, we haven’t finalized but we are in discussion with the Home Depot Center about a women’s national team game there, but we haven’t finalized that. It is a goal of ours to provide our team an opportunity to play where we will hopefully be playing Oct. 12.
On the concerns of the travel:
The travel component last time included seven venues, this time we have six. We have four as you all know now on the East Coast and two on the West. It avoids people going East to West, East to West, or the flip side of that. We now have about thirty team movements and that’s the goal to have no more than that. In the World Cup in 1999, there were 42 team movements.
On movement of the tournament and doubleheaders:
The tournament will move East to West, and under the scenarios just a matter of when we go West. That’s about as much as we can say. On the doubleheader item, these will be exclusive Women’s World Cup doubleheaders.
MLS Commisioner Don Garber
When Dr. Bob and Dan Flynn first discussed with us the opportunity to have this event moved from China to the United States. We were obviously excited about what it could do for the sport of soccer overall in the country and pledged our support at many, many levels. They knew and we certainly recognized the impact this would have on short timing.
The television schedule, on access of our stadiums and so many other things that effect MLS and our marketing company Soccer United Marketing. SUM is the rightsholder the 2002, 2003, 2006 World Cups and as such is going to work very closely with U.S. Soccer and FIFA on quickly developing a schedule that would significantly expand the number of exposures on ABC and ESPN who have contracted to broadcast the event. We are not yet ready to announce that schedule, but will be able to do shortly. We will have from what was one ABC broadcast to what will likely be several, and what was 10 ESPN and ESPN2 broadcasts, which will now be much more than that – probably north of 13 at this point.
Our league, MLS, has as its goal to be among the top professional sports leagues in this country and among the top soccer leagues in the world. That goal led us to a strategy to help support and grow the sport at all levels and all age group and all genders. That theory had us adopting a strategy to do everything we can to help this event be successful for the sport of soccer in this country.
We will assist Dan and U.S. Soccer in any way that they request, both as broadcaster and in the local markets where they might need our support with ticket sales, logistics and all of those discussions.
SUM has been selected by FIFA to be the host broadcaster for the event, and that is something we are very excited about so it won’t just be broadcasting here in the U.S., it will be creating the feed that will be distributed world wide.
On the TV schedule and possibly going against the NFL on Sundays:
This event was originally scheduled for games to be broadcast in the middle of the night. The move to the United States precipitated an enormous amount of work with ABC and ESPN to try to find the right windows, marrying with the right stadium availability and a minimal amount of team movements that FIFA was requesting. It was a very complicated matrix. The broadest window of opportunity happens to be on Sunday with ESPN and ABC, and the most limited time is on Saturdays because of college football. We were somewhat limited. Their availability was based on their schedules, and clearly they already had the rights. We are very comfortable, particularly for the final, that we will have our piece of real estate. It is somewhat of a different market. It’s a huge event of global proportions and we’re very convinced that we will have success on television.
The midweek games are dictated by the schedule. It is premature to talk about schedule now, but clearly there will be a variety of midweek games, and those games would be on ESPN or ESPN2, not on ABC.
WUSA President/CEO Lynn Morgan
When we got word that there was an opportunity for the Women’s World Cup to come back to the U.S. we were immediately thrilled and pledged our support to U.S. Soccer to do anything to ensure that this event would be staged in a world class environment and on a world-class level that it certainly deserves. At the WUSA, we are anticipating as many as 50 of our players who will be competing in the Women’s World Cup. It’s going to be an exciting and tremendous opportunity for the WUSA teammates to be going head to head against each other in these all important matches.
Clearly the selection of venues provides a great opportunity for WUSA fans in our markets. They have an opportunity to drive and see some of their favorite players right now in four of the six cities that will be hosting World Cup matches: Philly, Boston, Washington D.C., and in many ways Los Angeles at the Home Depot Center, which is a very short drive from San Diego where the San Diego Spirit is located.
And as all of you know the 1999 Women’s World cup really gave birth to the WUSA. It made household names out of players like Brandi Chastain and Julie Foudy and Tiffeny Milbert and so many others. We are really looking at the 2003 Women’s World Cup as a platform to introduce to the U.S. and the world so many new stars and so many young female soccer players who are emerging. This is a great stage for them to showcase their skills and to show the world really how far the women’s game has evolved.
Many have asked me if in fact this event can live up to the 1999 World Cup and the expectations there, and there is one thing that I can guarantee that will be better in this World Cup than in 1999 and that’s the level of play. I think if you ask any player or any coach around the world they will say that the WUSA has clearly elevated the level of women’s play throughout the world - not only in the Americans becoming better players, but also in players from Norway, Germany, France, China and so many other great countries. It’s also a great platform for soccer in the U.S. in that it showcases women’s athletics. No other country in the world has forward thinking programs like Title IX or encourages their children to participate in sports like they have here in the United States.
So again, the WUSA is very excited to help U.S. Soccer in any way that we can to ensure that this World Cup comes off without a hitch. We have pledged our support in all of our markets and everyone in the WUSA is looking forward to working very closely with MLS and U.S. Soccer to make this event a terrific World Cup.
On interest from potential sponsors:
Actually we have. It’s been pretty interesting to hear from the different teams, most of those inquiries are coming directly from individual teams. There has been a lot of interest from prospective sponsors that we would love to see join the WUSA, and also a lot of interest from existing WUSA sponsors that are interested in perhaps getting involved in the World Cup and the excitement that that promises. It’s been a very exciting and quick turn around. The interest level we are all going to see that it’s going to continue to grow up until the start of the World Cup.
It’s still a little too early to be specific, but we have internally been working on ideas and marketing thoughts that we would want to incorporate into the second half of our season to capitalize on the event taking place. With our All-Star game taking on the format of the world stars taking on the American stars, that will obviously be sort of a preview of sorts to a World Cup tournament. As we continue through the second half of our season, I think it is fair to say that you will feel more of a World Cup flair to our marketing and promotions.
U.S. Women’s National Team Head Coach April Heinrichs
My feeling is that every decision that FIFA makes and every decision and announcement that U.S. Soccer is able to make gets us closer to the start of the World Cup. I told the team at 11:30 a.m. today that there would be an announcement of all the venues, and they wanted to know them. They were extremely excited. For our team, our goal is to be playing in The Home Depot Center come Oct. 12, and that’s been our goal for two and a half years now, since we started developing players, our systems and our team to complete at the next World Cup.
It’s exciting for me to hear about MLS and the WUSA working together to better the women’s game. I think at the end of the day it will also better the game in America. We are supporting the WUSA and the MLS by going to these venues, and I think it is a great statement that we are putting the World Cup into soccer-specific stadiums. How can we go to investors and supporters of the game and ask them to build such monumental, cathedral-like environments for us to have in America to promote the game and then not play in them? I can tell you that our team really supports U.S. Soccer’s decision and FIFA’s decision to put us in the venues that we are going to be in. Our team is ready to play in any venue U.S. Soccer and FIFA wants to put us in. Our team feels supported by all those communities and we are ready to get going now.
On the team promoting the event:
Our women have been out there pounding the streets and promoting. The WUSA has provided a podium for them to stand on and talk about the Women’s World Cup. For the last two years they have been in the WUSA promoting the women’s game as a whole. I think they are great spokeswomen for the game. They are such activists and they advocate so well for their game, that right now we want them to stay focussed on performance and not promoting the game. But prior to that I think we are going to try and be smart about it. Every time the national team comes together, we’re four days here in Salt Lake City right now and all four days we have spent with the media talking about the Women’s World Cup, and eager to get the venues announced and eager now to get the schedule announced. Every time we get together we can talk about the Women’s World Cup. We have had more than 200 people at practice these last four days, and the word is getting out. I think that the women will get out there and help us, and I know that U.S. Soccer, WUSA and MLS are all going to work together to make sure we don’t do too much so that being the home team is a disadvantage.
On the Home Depot Center:
"I wasn’t actually at the game that opened up the Home Depot Center this past weekend, but I was there about a month and a half ago down on the field. A couple things struck me being in the stadium when I took the tour a month before it opened. What really struck me was first of all the grass was only a week old and yet it had maturity already. It was smooth, flat, and in mint condition, and yet it had only been there a week. The surface was fast, everybody in soccer prefers a fast surface, certainly the U.S. team does. It’s a 120 yard x 75 yard wide surface. Obviously for us, we want to play on a larger surface and a larger facility because it allows us to extend the game out. It favors an attack-oriented team as opposed to a compact game.
When you stand on the field level and you look up you are struck by a few things. First, the canopy will help the acoustics sound like there’s 50,000 in there and not just 30,000. The lighting is spread out equitably across the sidelines of the fields for the 120 yards, which makes the sidelines of the field perfectly lit and no hot or dark spots. The sound system is state of the art.
After having been there, and been in the upper part of the stadium and all the wandering around and just be a spectator, it is a state-of-the-art stadium that inspires players and fans. I think it will be enjoyable experience for fans, and friends and family that go to the World Cup. For me, I was secretly hoping that The Home Depot Center would be one of the venues because it helps establish that it’s not the same as 1999. It’s the 2003 Women’s World Cup. We have four months to prepare. The day those tickets go on sale, I’m telling you those tickets are going fast, they are going to be hot tickets. And I think that’s the best way to sell the women’s game. The best way to promote is having the tickets on demand. I’m telling you I’ll be getting some tickets to make sure I’m taken care of in terms of friends and family regardless of whether we play there. Obviously, I hope we get to play there, but it is a marvelous place. I haven’t missed a Women’s World Cup, and I’ll tell you I won’t. One way or the other I’ll be there as a fan or a spectator and I’ll tell you its going to be exciting to play at Home Depot.
U.S. Women’s National Team Co-Captain Julie Foudy
I think all of them are great soccer venues. We are ecstatic on the Philadelphia choice as well. Lorrie Fair who plays for the Philadelphia Charge was saying what a great stadium it is and that it is brand new and world class. I think Columbus Crew Stadium has been a great one for us over the years with U.S. Soccer matches being played there and a great fan base. The Home Depot Center, I haven’t seen yet, but I hear it is fantastic. I saw it on television last week and I thought I was watching an English Premiership game. Then RFK and Boston, we have played in all of those markets. I think it’s going to be a great tournament.