Officials Discuss FIFA Women's World Cup 2003 Schedule Announcement
Anthony Williams, Mayor of the District of Columbia
“I thank all of you for being here. It is a special day in our city. I am honored to welcome U.S. Soccer here today to announce the 2003 Women’s World Cup schedule. First of all, I am thrilled to announce that RFK Stadium here in our city is hosting the first game for the United States team. The Women’s World Cup coming to our city is going to add to the great tradition of major soccer events at RFK. Over the years, we have hosted some of the world’s most passionate soccer fans. And that is saying a lot given the passion of soccer fans around the world. We know that fans from around the world are going to come here to Washington to see the games and while here will take the opportunity to go to our great restaurants, museums and attractions here in our nation’s capital.”
USSF President Dr. S. Robert Contiguglia
“Thank you for being here. It’s an absolute pleasure to have you here to help us launch this. Wow. A few months ago when I realized that SARS was going to create a problem for the Women’s World Cup in China, I never thought that it would put us into this role that we’ve been going from for the last months. As you know, we contacted FIFA and said we’re available to help. And then we got a request from FIFA to submit a bid to host the Women’s World Cup. And in that we sent a group over to Zurich, Don Garber, Dan Flynn, Jay Berhalter, to meet with FIFA staff and we said we think we can do it. Of course, I wasn’t the one doing all the work. When we met with the FIFA staff we said we have a number of objectives if we are to host this Women’s World Championship again, particularly in such a short period of time. But if we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it right. And we believed that we wanted to do it in the best facilities and venues possible. We said to FIFA that the most important objective is to have an environment where the athletes can be as good as they can be, to perform at the highest level and to show the world the highest level of competition and the best female athletes on the planet.
“We also said that the future of soccer in the United States is soccer-specific stadiums. And we said that our soccer-specific stadiums that we’re building are the forerunners of what we see as the footprint for the sport in the United States in the future. And those stadiums are of course the Columbus Crew Stadium and of course now our new Home Depot Center, that opened just recently, which we look at as the crown jewel for us and the precursor to other soccer specific stadiums across the country (such as the Frisco and hopefully here in D.C. and the New York metropolitan area). So we went to FIFA with those ideas in mind as well, and said we’ll host the best possible World Cup that we can and we’re going to show the world the progress that we’ve made and we’re going to show the world the future of soccer in our facilities and in this country. They agreed, and the FIFA executive committee approved having U.S. Soccer as the host for the 2003 World Cup. We feel bad for China and for their grave disappointment and we certainly commiserate with them. On the other hand, I know they will get the chance to do the 2007 which we were hopefully going to be doing. So we just sort of flipped. We’re looking forward to an incredible and great tournament.
“What I’d like to do now is point out how it’s going to work. First, the opening ceremony and the first U.S. game will be here at RFK Stadium on September 21. The final game will be at Home Depot Center on October 12, 2003. And again we’re going to show the world where we’ve gone with soccer facilities. There will be 17 match days and here’s the venue breakdown: RFK Stadium will have three matches. Lincoln Financial in Philly will have two. Columbus Crew will have three. Gillette of course in Boston two matches. PGE in Portland, and I’d like to say that Portland is the only facility that has three World Cup events at it, and they are a spectacular community along with the Washington community here, but Portland has always come out and been very enthusiastic. And of course our crown jewel, the Home Depot Center. We’re going to blow the socks off of the world when they see this facility. I can’t say enough. The one thing I want to say about that facility Tony DiCicco pointed out earlier today, that this will be the first World Cup in the United States where every field is at least full size or meet all the FIFA requirements. So this is going to be special for the athletes, and I know April and her players prefer a nice wide field. Home Depot I think is 78 yards wide.
“RFK Stadium, as you’re all aware, has the capacity of 53,000. It’s the home of the WUSA and the MLS in D.C. United and of course the Washington Freedom. Lincoln Financial is in Philadelphia. This is a brand new stadium built with both American football and soccer in mind. I’ve heard that it’s a spectacular site and we’re very excited about having matches there. (As for) Columbus Crew Stadium, the Lamar Hunt vision and dream of a soccer specific stadium has been very successful and a great venue for us. You all remember the victory on the men’s side over Mexico in that stadium when we were qualifying for the World Cup. I’m sure you all know we do not yet know who the specific teams in the groups are because we haven’t had the draw yet. We’re waiting for that, and that will hopefully happen in the near future. A favorite stadium has always been Foxboro, its just beautiful the Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass., where the New England Revolution play and the Boston Breakers play in the same marketplace. Hopefully they will hold the quarterfinal doubleheader. And as I mentioned PGE Park in Portland, it is a beautiful stadium and they will be putting grass on artificial turf. They will host five groups of games including quarterfinal and semifinal games. And then down to our gem and the home of U.S. Soccer, our national training center the Home Depot Center, which is state-of-the-art and all I can say is it is a higher quality facility in the world. I think what will so be unique for the finals, for the first time, is that it will not be in an American football stadium. Not only will the spectators be close up and give a great atmosphere for the athletes, but the athletes will play on real turf designed for soccer. And it will also have the TV line which will also be very special to international broadcasting with the highest quality as opposed to a different type of facility. And we’re just so excited that that’s where we’ll be.”
April Heinrichs, U.S. Women’s National Team Head Coach
“In a lot of respects, we were looking forward to going to China. We had our plan in place. We had a grouping already and a direction. We had sent a team of three people to China to do a site inspection of all the stadiums, training facilities, transportation and hotels. But FIFA made a great choice. Sepp Blatter has said that the future of football is feminine. I think he backed that up with the designation of U.S. Soccer to host. I think that we can do it well. We have a sporting community that can put together a world-class tournament and a world-class event for world-class players in such a short time. We have beautiful stadiums and the personnel across the country. I love the fact that people are bidding and arguing in the press about getting their city and their stadium in the Women’s World cup as a venue. To me that is a giant leap forward and a positive direction that we are having sports authorities, mayors and cities across the country trying to participate and be gracious hosts for the Women’s World Cup.
“I really want to thank Dan Flynn, Dr. Bob and Jay Berhalter. I can tell you that they have been running around the clock. They have been on an organizational conveyor belt for the last three weeks. I am just training the team and watching WUSA games. I want to thank them all and I also want to thank Coach Tony DiCicco and (MLS Commisioner) Don Garber for making this happen. I said to Julie Foudy, ‘You have to be the luckiest generation of athletes in the world. You’ve had two World Cups at home.’
“The most exciting thing for me is that we are going to be playing on large fields. I think the women’s game merits some of the largest fields America has to offer. It rewards an attacking style team. Any of you that know the women’s national team know that we pride ourselves on – and have for 17 years – playing attack-oriented soccer. We take calculated risks and go forward and develop personality players that want to make a difference in the game. I think the field size and the quality of the stadium makes a big difference in the women’s game.
“Our women have not been working the last three and a half weeks or the last three and a half months for this moment. They have been working for three and a half years.”
Don Garber, MLS Commissioner
“I, like others, was contacted by Dr. Bob and Dan a while back. As the owner of the broadcast rights for the 2002 World Cup from Korea and Japan, the men’s World Cup in 2006 and the Women’s World Cup in China, we had sold those rights to ABC and ESPN and we had a schedule that had games on in the middle of the night. The move from China to the United States set in pace a lot of fast work among all of our partners to make sure we have a broadcast schedule that will not just replicate 1999, but will be even better. Later this week, we will announce that schedule that will have almost double the number of exposure that existed when the tournament was set in China and we’ll have multiple exposures on network television as well as on ESPN and ESPN2. My hat’s off to the folks at both ESPN and ESPN2 for their excitement and their support for this tournament. Clearly there’s been a lot of work done by a lot of people and there’s been a lot of thank-you’s that have gone around. And I want to really recognize the folks at the federation, Dan and Jay for the work that they’ve done with Dr. Bob, who in a very short period of time found the venues that will be most appropriate for the tournament, and venues that can allow the WUSA and Major League Soccer to work together with our staff in the coming days to ensure that the tournament is a success. We’re particularly proud of the ability for our soccer specific stadiums to get profiled in tournaments like this that can help bring exposure to the greatness of these facilities.
“We’re ready to do all we can to make sure that the water level raises for the sport in this country. We’re not competing against each other, we’re competing against all the other sports and the noise that takes place out there. Only together can we bring this sport to the high level that exists in other parts of the world and the high level that we’re convinced it can exist here in the United States. Thank you very much.”
Tony DiCicco, WUSA Commissioner
“The whole U.S. Soccer team, and this goes back a number of years, have been leading the way for women’s soccer. Some of the greatest moments, as far as taking the game to the next level, have been decisions made by U.S. Soccer coordinating with FIFA. I think this is another great decision. How fitting is it for the tournament to be not only here in Washington, D.C., our nation’s capital, but also in RFK Stadium, where so many wonderful and important games have been played by the national team, I know with my own coaching experience. After losing the semifinals in Sweden to a very good – if not a better – team on that day in Norway … April was there; she remembers that low point … we had the opportunity to play Norway a month later here at RFK in the Nike U.S. Women’s Cup final. I think it was a turning point for our team. We beat Norway 2-1 on a golden goal assisted by Jen Grubb of the Washington Freedom and scored by Tammy Pearman of the New York Power of the WUSA. That is where we turned and became a championship team again, leading to the Olympics in 1996 where we again beat Norway on a golden goal. RFK has its spot in my heart and I think it is awesome that it is going to be here.
“The tournament itself is going to be very special. I know there are comparisons to 1999, but I also know that with the work that is being done, the efforts by Don Garber and MLS, WUSA and, of course, U.S. Soccer, this is going to be an incredibly special event. We have that unique opportunity in America, different than any other country in the world. We grow the sport of soccer with both our men and our women. Whether it is the Men’s National Team and Bruce Arena last summer turning many heads around the globe, or whether it is the women’s team and what April is doing with their team right now. Our team is looking very, very good. The wins are impressive. The players are exciting. We do this jointly to grow the sport. Now what we see with MLS and WUSA, the Washington Freedom and D.C. United have put on some great doubleheaders here at RFK by working together. I know they are going to be integral and very, very important in creating a sold-out stadium on Sept. 21 here at RFK, which is my prediction. It’s going to be rocking. It is going to be one of the most exciting moments in women’s soccer when we launch the 2003 World Cup again in America and here in RFK.”