So the choice has been made, the announcement coming later than most would have preferred.
Denver will be the site of the United States’ national team’s first home match in final stage World Cup qualifying. The Americans will play Costa Rica on March 22 at Dicks Sporting Goods Park.
Even before today’s official announcement from U.S. Soccer, the feet-stomping consternation was already growing to full boil. “Denver? Why doggone Denver? What have they done to deserve such a plum?”
Well everyone really needs to calm down on this one.
No, the Colorado Rapids aren’t setting attendance records. But Denver and Dicks Sporting Goods Park will serve just fine as a U.S. Soccer qualifier destination. In the big picture, U.S. Soccer should basically consider two things when choosing World Cup qualifier destinations:
- Competitive advantages, foremost. This includes, but probably isn’t limited to, field conditions, any edge that weather might create, ability to tweak the crowd balance as much as possible and logistical considerations of the before and after.
- Some degree of diversity and variety in venue selection. That is, geographic diversity across a big land (a game West, a game East, one in the Heartland, one in the deep south, etc.) and some effort to spread the significant U.S. matches among as many communities as possible within the context of the first consideration. (Because, do we really want a see a game in freakin’ New England every year, as U.S. Soccer once seemed determined to provide us?)
Within those two overriding considerations, it would be great if U.S. Soccer gave more weight to the MLS clubs that have spent handsomely to develop their own grounds, a la the choice of Houston as this year’s first U.S. men’s friendly site.
That’s about it. No community should feel any more entitled to a match than the next one – no matter how well the MLS games do or don’t draw.