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Playing Mexico In California Would Promote U.S. Soccer
San Diego Union-Tribune, November 26th, 2008 12:45PM
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U.S. Soccer for the most part sticks to its manifesto as a non-profit body aimed at promoting soccer in the U.S. "in order to make it the pre-eminent sport recognized for excellence in participation, spectator appeal, international competition and gender equity," writes Mark Zeigler, quoting the USSF's federal tax return. But when it comes to staging World Cup qualifiers at home to Mexico, it conveniently forgets this noble statement.

Zeigler mentions the case for playing the February 11 game at the 92,000-capacity Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., in order to generate income that could be put back into promoting the game. "Beside the goodwill gesture toward a Hispanic community long ignored and ostracized by U.S. Soccer," he writes, "the $5 million gate could be plowed back into that very community in youth development programs aimed at cultivating players for -- yes, future U.S. national teams."

But he acknowledges last week's comments by USSF President Sunil Gulati that the U.S. will only start talking about playing Mexico at the Rose Bowl when Mexico entertains the possibility of playing its home games against the U.S. at sea level in Monterrey, rather than at altitude in Mexico City. "We'll play qualifying games in venues where we believe the U.S. national team has the best chance of winning and moving along towards qualification for South Africa 2010," Gulati wrote Zeigler by e-mail. That likely means cold Columbus, Ohio, with its 1 percent Mexican demographic.

Still, says Zeigler, isn't it worth the risk of losing the game given that the U.S. will likely qualify in any case? And if it can't be Pasadena, why not compromise on a cold-weather city such as Cleveland or Washington D.C. where Mexico's fans would have better access to tickets? "You get the feeling, though, that [U.S. coach Bob] Bradley will lobby hard for Columbus," Zeigler concludes. "And that's fine, with one proviso: the U.S. men better win, to justify tossing away another fleeting chance 'to promote' the sport on a national scale."


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