The USMNT Is Going To Play Where?

Back in August, TSG explored the idea of creating “Soccertown USA” — one city where the USMNT would play all of its games. In that piece the following was noted:

Since the beginning of 2006 the USMNT has played games in 19 cities —San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, Cary (NC), Nashville, Cleveland, E. Hartford, Phoenix, Tampa, San Jose, Boston, Chicago (2 locations), Houston, NYC, Washington (DC), Columbus, Seattle and Salt Lake City (9/5).

The USMNT travels back to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay for the first time since 2007 to face El Salvador in February.

Looking at these locations and the relevancy of the games — friendly, World Cup qualifier, Gold Cup — there did not seem to be much rhyme or reason to where the games were placed by US Soccer. In fact, we likened the USMNT to a traveling circus due to their seemingly random movement throughout the country.

Though TSG never thought the US Soccer Federation actually threw darts at  a map of the United States as their method of selection, little explanation has been offered behind match site decisions. Thankfully, the USSF offered some insight into their due diligence and decision-making process during TSG’s trip to training camp last week.

The guiding principle for stadium selection by USSF is to put the game in a place where US Soccer has “the best chance to be successful.” Based on some of the selection criteria below, the definition of “successful” is likely some combination of team performance on the pitch, financial success and the potential to reach and reinforce a growing fanbase, though US Soccer didn’t specifically elaborate on its definition.

As part of the due diligence process and in order to gauge the likelihood of success, the USSF considers some or all of the following (and potentially additional) criteria in its decision of the city, stadium and time to place a match on U.S. soil.

(Note: The below criteria is not listed in order of priority.)

  • Availability of the stadium
  • Time of year
  • Weather…winter fixtures in the northeast are not a good idea
  • Field conditions…playing a USMNT match two days after a general admission Phish concert is not advised
  • Team schedule…stand-alone friendly, qualifying round, extended training, etc.
  • Player travel…probably cross Los Angeles off the list if Bradley calls in a team based heavily in Europe
  • Television…likelihood the game and time slot will be attractive to the networks
  • Home field advantage…don’t expect a US-Mexico fixture in San Diego
  • Exposure and growing the sport…a Gold Cup game in Seattle, for example
  • Supporting new facilities…expect Harrison (NJ) to snag a game in the next couple of years

According to US Soccer, game locations are announced as soon as contracts are finalized. As you can imagine, there are a lot of moving parts around logistics and finances to workout in securing opponents, stadiums, practicing facilities and player travel and accommodations, among other things.

One thing is certain despite the considerable effort it takes to arrange matches in twenty different venues in just over four years…don’t expect a single city solution anytime soon. US Soccer will continue to place matches around the country to increase exposure and raise the profile of national team soccer in the United States.

(And since Matthew and I are headed to the Home Depot Center for the US-Honduras match this Saturday, I am okay with that…for now.)

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16 responses to this post.

  1. Interesting. When you lay out the criteria for stadium selection is certainly puts a face on what seems (and still seems) as a random event.

    I thought it was interesting that “Home field advantage” is one of the criteria even though it has appeared as though it is one of the last ones if we were to rank them in order of importance (which they aren’t). With the exception of our triumphs in Columbus against Mexico (during WCQ) most of those matches are played in heavily Latino areas (Dallas, Los Angeles, Houston, etc) while many other Qualifiers and international friendlies are played in heavily accessible (internationally) or ex-pat friendly cities (think US-Poland in Chicago and numerous other games against Latin opponents).

    There can be a case made that HFA is not near the top of USSF lists, which then the debate is whether or not the “powers-that-be” would sacrifice their National Team’s potential success for better attendance numbers.

    All-in-all a good topic to return to since the original article. Glad to see you were able to come back to this and more impressive you remembered with all the Benny! sightings.

    Reply

    • Posted by Antonio H. on 2010/01/20 at 7:14 AM

      I think it makes sense that better attendance numbers and more exposure is more of a priority than home field advantage. . .at least for the short run(another 4-12 years maybe). Because once you get that, then more people will buy tickets & maximum capacity for stadiums will come closer to being reached. Then, we could even extremely underallocate tickets to any and all fans south of the border just like the Azteca did to us.

      Reply

      • Posted by Mark T on 2010/01/20 at 7:38 AM

        Antonio, that is the question I find most interesting….

        What will build the fan base faster, winning or exposure?

        (Connor chimes in on that below.)

        Reply

    • Posted by Antonio H. on 2010/01/20 at 7:17 AM

      . . .in turn we’d gain that oh-so-vital HFA that can give us that extra boost during the final 10 minutes of games. And we won’t have a lapse like we did on August 12th. 84th minute if I’m not mistaken. . .damnit.

      Reply

  2. Yes, it is I, the notorious insomniac.

    I’m not sure if the US will ever have a single stadium solution. With the size of the United States and the fans of the national team spanning coast to coast, and all the stadiums around the country ready and willing to make more profit, why only have one stadium? It wouldn’t be fair for people on the West Coast to be the only ones able to attend games without having to trek 3,000 miles. Or the other way around. Or for people in Florida to never go to the games because they’re always in New York. You’ve gotta keep moving things around. Russia doesn’t have a “home” stadium (they have three).

    Smaller countries like England, Germany, and France can have a “home” stadium simply because they are so small compared to the US, but I’m sure you already know that. The entire “country” of England (not the UK) would fit nicely in my home state of Kentucky.

    I just know I’d be pretty pissed if the USMNT changed all matches to the Home Depot Center. I certainly wouldn’t drive that 2,162 miles from Lexington to Los Angeles for the games (33 hour drive). I also can’t imagine you would enjoy trekking across country every time you wanted to go to a match either (unless you are the beneficiary of some unlimited amount of cash). With the cost of getting to places these days with airlines and hotels and car rentals and tickets and merchandise…you might as well end up making going to a match apart of a vacation or something.

    Also, we just don’t yet have the fan base to really have a “home” field advantage. We barely outnumbered Mexican supporters in Columbus this past year. The closest thing to a home field advantage we had was probably the T&T match in Nashville, and that was probably because T&T fans don’t travel too well. We all know we could schedule a US-Mexico match in Seattle or New York and Mexicans would still outnumber the US supporters.

    It will probably take the US winning the World Cup to get people to turn out in mass. Fingers crossed for a surprise this summer.

    Reply

    • Posted by Mark T on 2010/01/20 at 7:40 AM

      Connor, after the debate in August, I ended up thinking 3 or 4 geographically spaces stadiums was best. I agree, however, that nothing will build the fan base like winning.

      Reply

      • Dan over at the FBM and I have discussed this issue at length and yes winning is important in building a home field advantage, but we think accessibility is the most important, which is why rotating the games and coming up with regional home cities is the best way to go. If you think about it, how many soccer fanaticos write, read, and/or comment blogs? Probbaly enough to fill the Big House at the University of Michigan at least twice over for a soccer game.

        So if we’re currently rotating games to cities in different regions why do we still have lower than hoped for turnouts? Accessibility or cost for going to one of these games. The tickets for two people alone will run you close to $75 if not more, let alone if you add in gas/airfare for traveling and possibly hotels if there’s no one you know to crash with. Not to mention having to take a day or two off of work if the game is more than 1,000 miles away.

        We think that it would be an excellent idea for the USSF to work on getting some airline and hotel discounts in the host game cities to make it more accessible for the fans that aren’t made of money. Having 3,4, 5, or 6 regional home stadiums (North West, South West, South Central, North Central, North East, South East) would probably give the USSF a little bit of leverage with the airlines and hotels in those cities to help make this happen. Giving the existing fans the easiest possible way of getting to the games will begin building an awesome home field advantage without being forced to win a World Cup to get into the American Mainstream consciousness.

        Reply

  3. Posted by bw on 2010/01/20 at 9:56 AM

    if they’re going to rotate it around, then actually rotate it around everywhere. they seem to rotate around randomly, but between the same cities. maybe i’m just bitter b/c the last time the US came to denver it was 2002 friendly w/ mexico.

    Reply

    • Posted by Matt B on 2010/01/20 at 10:02 AM

      I think they played at the Dick last year, but I hear what you’re saying. The last time they played in Detroit was the 94 World Cup game against Switzerland at the Silverdome.

      Reply

      • Posted by MM on 2010/01/20 at 11:24 AM

        They did play Guatemala at Dick’s Sporting Goods Stadium in Nov. 2007. It wasn’t advertised locally. It also had the most expensive ticket prices for qualification that year. Which was surprising since game was meaningless in terms of qualification. Only hard core fans made it to that game.

        Reply

        • Posted by bw on 2010/01/20 at 4:58 PM

          oh snap …. you’re so right. i had 4 tickets and had to sell em to friends because of a last minute work trip. i completely was repressing that memory and am now reliving the frustration. ‘thanks’ for reminding me. none the less….COME BACK!!

          Reply

  4. Posted by matthewsf on 2010/01/20 at 11:31 AM

    Unfortunately my day job has a ton to do with ticketing companies, concerts, sporting events, etc.

    I’m going to go on a tangent here and suggest that the stadium selection process is what it is and arguments can fall up or down a sliding scale of gate revenues vs. home field advantage.

    I think the question that I have and maybe I’ll talk some of the AO guys this weekend and put this on my growing list of questions for Mr. Gulati is….

    What is being actively done to encourage attendance growth? What is done and what is the budget?

    Picking a city where the numbers line up is one thing. Actively marketing the event (like meet and greets with the players, some Big Finger USMNT take-homes, VIP packages…).

    Sometimes I feel outside of publications like ours and the fan groups (and perhaps the bar showing the game)….I wouldn’t even know about the game. I can tell you that the game is on Fox Soccer Channel and TeleFutura, but I can’t tell you if I’ve seen one promotion either on that network or anywhere else’s for the game.

    I just–literally–went to the web site and looked at the ticket page for Saturday’s game:

    http://www.ussoccer.com/Schedule-Tickets/2010/100123-US-Men-vs-Honduras.aspx

    This is your standard Ticketmaster software service VIP and Visa offers. What else do the fans get?

    What if you let say offered a sweepstakes–a trip to South Africa–for the one fan who got the most people to purchase?

    I’ll close here for now until I do more research since it’s not responsible to go much further without it.

    Killer story to spark more discussion Mark.

    Reply

  5. Posted by Joe on 2010/01/20 at 1:00 PM

    Florida, its a miracle!

    Matt, I just spoke to a lady about the VIP Experience tickets for the El Sal game in Tampa and for $450 you get:
    Pre-game tour of the stadium and various press areas
    Visit to the USA locker room prior to the team’s arrival
    On-field access during pre-game warm ups
    On-field seat – fans will get to take home a U.S. Soccer lawn chair
    Customized MNT jersey
    MNT yearbook
    Post-game activities in the Mixed Zone
    Pre and Post Game Activites

    A little to steep for me, especially for an El Sal warm up. I agree with you that nothing has been done for promotions which is quite sad. I live in Miami and no one knows that the game is coming to Tampa. They know its on tv but thats about it.

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/01/20 at 4:39 PM

      See that’s a killer deal.

      I’m wondering if they are selling these to corporates as well (which makes sense)

      More they need the publicity / promotion of this….

      Thanks for sending.

      Reply

    • Right now I could be persuaded to buy that option, especially since I can’t find the current white USMNT jersey anywhere. I don’t even think they have XXL anymore.

      Reply

  6. [...] Just a few months ago, TSG investigated how USSF selects the locales for USMNT home games. [...]

    Reply

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