Friday, April 10, 2009

Future World Cup Matches in Alabama?

Earlier this week, the US World Cup Bid Committee released a list of 70 possible stadiums that could host a world cup match should the USA be awarded the 2018 or 2022 FIFA World Cup. Included in that list are Legion Field in Birmingham, Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, and Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn.

As much as I'd like to see one of these stadiums host a World Cup match, this list should not be taken seriously. I'm sure the idea of releasing this impressive list is to drum up publicity about the USA bid and to insure to FIFA that there is no chance of the worries that stadiums will not be completed in time like they are currently experiencing in South Africa. If FIFA picks the USA to host , we will have a wide variety of large capacity all-seater buildings in place. All of these stadiums have the modern amenities like press boxes, built-in camera areas, concourses, and good access to transportation. FIFA would just have to say the word...

However, most of the stadiums on the list are American football stadiums that would require modifications (for example, laying down grass over artificial turf) or a relaxing of the FIFA field standards in order to host a World Cup soccer match. A field for World Cup play must be a minimum of 68 meters wide and must have at least 6 meters in width before the seating area. Many American Football stadium just aren't wide enough in the corners to meet this requirement.
Does this field meet the FIFA width requirement? Um, nope.

Even the ones that do meet the width requirement aren't built with soccer in mind. Take LP Field in Nashville. While it has successfully hosted several international matches already, the sight lines are built for American Football. The elevation and the steepness of the stands are designed to allow people to see over the 40-plus giant players and staff standing on the sidelines of each play. A spectator sitting in behind the first few rows cannot see near side touch line at all on a soccer field.

Unfortunately, the stadiums that are being built with soccer in mind, including all of the stadiums built by MLS clubs, are far too small in capacity to meet the minimum capacity to host a World Cup match of 40,000 seats. So, this is the type of list you see.

Of course, maybe an MLS team who hasn't yet built a stadium will take the leap and build one with a 40,000 seat capacity. Are you listening my beloved, DC United? Nope, you've probably got your head in the sand after PG County said "Take a hike!" to your latest stadium proposal. Oh well...

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