Philadelphia Shut Out In Quest For 1994 World Cup Status-conscious Officials Felt That One Site Had To Be Called "New York."

Posted: March 24, 1992

NEW YORK — The Rose Bowl, the Cotton Bowl, Giants Stadium, RFK Stadium and other arenas untainted by baseball were among nine sites named yesterday to host the 1994 World Cup of soccer.

Philadelphia, one of 19 cities that had made a preliminary cut several months ago, failed to lure the sport's most prestigious tournament to Veterans Stadium. A group of Philadelphia business people and civic leaders had pursued the World Cup for almost four years.

The sites are Foxboro Stadium, outside Boston; the Citrus Bowl, in Orlando, Fla.; Soldier Field, in Chicago; the Cotton Bowl, in Dallas; the Rose Bowl, in Pasadena, Calif.; Giants Stadium, in East Rutherford, N.J.; Stanford Stadium, outside San Francisco; RFK Stadium, in Washington, and the Silverdome, in Pontiac, Mich., which will host the first indoor World Cup games.

The Vet had three strikes against it.

World Cup officials were concerned that the stadium would not be available long enough in the middle of the baseball season.

Then there was the question of grass. FIFA, the autocratic world governing body of the sport, requires that its game be played on real grass. Temporary grass would have had to be placed over the Vet's artificial surface. There was little time to do that, and there were concerns about the stability of the temporary surface.

Then there was an even more basic problem. Philadelphia is not New York. Status-conscious FIFA officials felt that one site had to be called New York. That made it more difficult for cities near New York, since the organizers wanted geographic balance.

Scott LeTellier, chief operating officer of World Cup USA 1994, the national organizing group, said yesterday that the organizers had seriously considered Philadelphia last year when the availability of Giants Stadium was in question.

LeTellier also said that some members of his group's site-selection committee had bought Philadelphia's argument that it was a better alternative to New York than New Haven, Conn. - that it was just as close by rail and had a better stadium.

"Philadelphia probably had the best oral presentation, in terms of maximizing what their community had to offer," LeTellier said. "All of us got very high on it."

But LeTellier said FIFA never budged from its insistence that a New York site be selected - even if Giants Stadium is in East Rutherford, N.J.

"For FIFA, it was absolutely a must," FIFA general secretary Sepp Blatter said. "If we were coming to the United States, we must play in New York."

The Philadelphia committee had suspected for several weeks that its hopes were dead.

"I think Philadelphia made a great bid, but it was out of our control," said Robert J. Hall, chairman of the local organizing committee and publisher of the Inquirer and Daily News. "I knew they were debating between eight or 12 or another number. They kept their cards pretty close to the vest."

In bidding for the World Cup, Philadelphia hosted two games of the U.S. national team, and drew two of the 10 largest crowds ever to see it play. In August 1989, 43,356 people watched the U.S. team and a Soviet professional squad, Dnepr, at Franklin Field. Last August, 44,261 people saw the U.S. team and an English professional club, Sheffield Wednesday, at the Vet.

The toughest decision, according to Alan Rothenberg, chairman of World Cup USA 1994, was choosing between Orlando and Tampa, Fla. In the end, the group decided that Disney World was the better draw, and went with the Citrus Bowl in Orlando.

The decision to go with nine sites rather than 12, as had been originally speculated, was primarily a financial one. One source estimated that the World Cup organizers could save $40 million by choosing nine cities instead of the 12 that officials of FIFA had wanted.

Rothenberg, who is also president of the United States Soccer Federation (USSF), said cities not chosen could expect consolation prizes, such as having World Cup teams train locally in 1994 and having first priority for tickets to the tournament.

Rothenberg said cities not selected also would be given top consideration for future games of the U.S. national team. Lehigh University was clearly chosen to host an Olympic qualifying match between the U.S. and Mexico on April 26 because of the region's strong soccer interest.

Richard Groff, the USSF treasurer, who lives in Bucks County and worked on the Philadelphia bid, said he expected the Vet to be picked for future games of the national team. But Groff said the visitors would continue to be foreign club teams because almost all national teams refuse to play on artificial turf.

Local soccer people are also making plans to have a professional soccer franchise in the area, possibly as soon as next spring.

Rothenberg said dates for specific World Cup games in each city would be announced around July 1. Three alternate sites will also be chosen if any of the cities has to drop out, but Philadelphia is not a candidate.

Yesterday's announcement ended a lobbying effort by the city that started almost as soon as the United States was picked to host the World Cup, back on July 4, 1988.

At different times, the city talked about using JFK Stadium and Franklin Field. The Phillies considered planting natural grass at the Vet, but decided it wouldn't be economical. Local organizers then talked about snapping trays of temporary grass together.

The only two sites chosen yesterday that will require temporary grass are the Silverdome and Giants Stadium. The selection of Giants Stadium also will require that World Cup regulations be changed, because there would be no room for corner kicks or throw-ins there given the required width of 75 yards.

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