[GOLD CUP: Quarterfinals]Less than two months after Jurgen Klinsmann poo-pooed the idea of having the USA play El Salvador, a USA-El Salvador match has turned out to be one of the hottest soccer tickets ever offered. It took less than 72 hours after the quarterfinal pairings were set for Sunday's Gold Cup doubleheader -- USA-El Salvador at 4 p.m. ET followed by Honduras-Costa Rica at 7 p.m. ET -- to sell out with more than 71,000 fans expected at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
As of Tuesday, just 26,000 tickets were sold, but Cuba's surprisingly large win over Belize sent it into the quarterfinals at Martinique's expense and reshuffled the quarterfinal pairings. Instead of playing Panama in Atlanta on Saturday, El Salvador will play the USA in Baltimore on Sunday.
Klinsmann was referring to playing El Salvador after a 4-2 friendly loss to Belgium in late May -- the last game, it turns out, before the USA embarked on its current eight-game winning streak.
“When you lose them," he said after the game in Cleveland, "it’s not such a big pleasure, but I’d rather play Belgium 10 more times than El Salvador for the 100th time, because that’s where you learn.”
There are more Salvadorans per capita in Maryland than in any other state, and the strong showing of La Selecta, led by Rodolfo Zelaya, at the Gold Cup and the prospect of facing the USA helped trigger a ticket-buying frenzy. (Honduras also has huge support on the East Coast.)
"The support of fans in every Gold Cup venue has been incredible,” said Concacaf president Jeffrey Webb in a statement. “I am extremely happy with the news from Baltimore that Sunday's quarterfinal doubleheader at M&T Bank Stadium is sold out. It will be a tremendous day for soccer, Concacaf, the Gold Cup and the city of Baltimore. Once again, people will be united through our great sport."
The crowd will be the largest to watch the USA in a Gold Cup quarterfinal and the third largest overall after 85,000 on July 19, 2009 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and 78,807 at New Meadowlands Stadium on June 28, 2011 at East Rutherford, N.J. Both of those dates included matches involving Mexico.