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).
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.)