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World Cup Qualifying

Report: USSF closing in on venues for HEX home games

By IVES GALARCEP

After waiting so long to find out the home venue for the first CONCACAF Hexagonal Round qualifying home match, U.S. fans look like they might not be waiting so long to find out the identities of the remaining venues.

Less than a week after U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati revealed that the remaining four home qualifiers will be played at MLS venues, Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl tweeted out a list of venues he is hearing will be chosen (and no, there are no surprises):

Columbus was always considered a lock to host the Mexico home qualifier, while the Oct. 11th match against Jamaica always made sense for Kansas City because it should provide a strong home crowd for what could be a crucial match. Seattle and Salt Lake are the big winners, as neither was considered a lock as recently as late in 2012.

If there is a surprise it is that the U.S. might travel from Jamaica to Seattle for matches four days apart. The June 18th qualifier vs. Honduras would seem to make more sense logistically for a Seattle trip but Klinsmann may be trying to play Honduras at altitude in Utah. That said, it wouldn’t be all that surprising if U.S. Soccer decided to play Panama at Rio Tinto Stadium on June 11th and then Honduras on June 18th in Seattle.

What do you think of the list? Which selection would you be happiest with? What market are you disappointed to not see make the cut? Surprised to see no qualifiers on the East Coast?

Share your thoughts below.

78 comments
  • Mike

    What about Red Bull Arena – would be a great stadium to host a game and can easily sell out with the right marketing techniques!

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    • slowleftarm

      Assuming this is a joke but, in case it’s not, I can’t think of a worse venue. A non-sellout is basically ensured. And I’m a RBNY season ticket holder. It is a great venue, just a shame fans don’t come see it.

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      • cremmo

        I bet it would sell out. Lots of friendlies are held at the Meadowlands and get way more than 25,000.

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      • cremmo

        Just looked it up. The US-Equador friendly drew 20,700 at RBA. I assume a qualifier would do better. Not sure if the crowd would be pro-US though.

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      • Usa1

        Key point being the make-up of the crowd. These are all in areas that tend to suggest pro-USA crowds especially when you consider opponents for each game as proposed

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      • Sabella

        I was at the US – Ecuador game. It felt like an away game for the US. That is the issue for any NYC venue, unfortunately

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    • Jake

      It would sell out without marketing for a US Hex qualifier. The problem is that it could easily not be as much of a home field advantage as some of these other places.

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  • malkin

    I was always under the impression Seattle would never be a possibility b/c of the artificial turf, but then I think I read a comment about how they can bring in a natural surface temporarily. Is that what would happen?

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    • Hogatroge

      I saw a recent report that said Gold Cup games in Seattle and Portland would not bring in real grass.

      That said, Hex matches might be a different story.

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      • beto

        the turf is not good but the temp grass on top of the turf is just asking for trouble.. unless they have a higher quality plan i think the turf will just have to do..

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    • The Imperative Voice

      The grass over turf setups are generally awful soccer. It’s like playing on grass that’s not been cut for months. The ball won’t roll on passes and dies on lofted balls. Splat. That’s Not Natural. I hope not.

      I generally don’t like turf fields from my HS experience playing on them, it’s just not soccer the same. You wanna play indoor soccer put some walls up and play 7 aside.

      But more specific to Panama I question the wisdom of playing them on a surface which might neutralize our technical advantages while creating a fast track for their athletic players. I think they had the right idea on the travel distance but I would not play a game at this stage of the qualis in the Pacific NW on turf because I don’t think it’s the controlled home advantage we want. Like, Columbus is a thoughtful choice for Mexico but this is like, screw it, we owe the NW a game. Not if we have as tough of a Hex experience as I think our draw set up……we need a gimme setup……maybe this should have been the grass and altitude game……Salt Lake, Denver…..I’m not sure Panama would handle altitude well…..

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  • lassidawg

    I am suprised by SLC getting a match. I traveled to the USA v El Salvador match in 2009 and at best it was a 50/50 crowd and to top it off the place wasn’t sold out.

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    • camjam

      I just watched a youtube video that disagrees with both of those statements. But by all means, watch it yourself

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      • USAHammerFan

        I was at the game too. It was a sell out. If people don’t show up and you have an empty seat…it’s still sold out. Can’t control that. Also, the crowd was nowhere near 50/50. It was very slanted to pro U.S. in SLC. And, when US played Costa Rica in a qualifier in SLC at Rice Eccles Stadium (prior to RioTinto days) a very pro-US crowd of over 40,000 showed up.

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    • lassidawg

      Then I was seeing things from behind the goal and there were empty seats in the upper section and that crowd was no where near 90/10 it was 50/50.

      About a minute in those sure look like empty seats in the upper deck.

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      • three11stu

        Yes, behind the South Goal, it was probably 50/50, as that was where all of the El Salvador fans were seated. The rest of the stadium was pretty much all USA, and it was Sold Out. Did you really go to the game, or just using the You Tube video?

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    • Phlub

      How about: Thanks EAST.

      Philly should definitely be in the mix here. Would be a pro-USA crowd, and a soccer specific stadium. New Yorkers would flock there. RBA obviously won’t work for home field advantage reasons, but Philly will.

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      • Skifast!

        I don’t get why Philly can’t be on the list, either. That would bring in the DC and NYC markets as well. Why does USSF have to use some of the same venues it did during the previous round? I get the Columbus choice for Mexico, but why KC again? Gotta spread the love around a bit.

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  • Soccerist

    Seattle sounds like an interesting pick – what characteristics do they look for in the selection? History of big wins makes sense (Colombus) but how much do they weigh other demographics – aside from ethnicity? In other words, is this a chance to make some money by going to a richer area or is that outweighed by having a W with a partisan crowd?

    Anyway, for those who are interested, here are some demographic maps of CenturyLink – its in a wealthy and older neighborhood (http://tinyurl.com/cxw9pol) – is that who will expect to see at the game or will many more people travel further for this than for an MLS game?

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    • SeattleSoccerFan

      CenturyLink is not in a “wealthy and older neighborhood”, it is sandwiched between downtown and an industrial part of town near the port facilities. And yes, people come from all over Seattle and its suburbs to attend games there.

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      • Danny

        sandwiched between downtown Seattle and an industrial part of town….

        hmmm, sounds like the definition of “wealthy and older neighborhood”

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      • smokeminside

        The yachts also have the longest, most well-appointed boarding ramps in the history of the high seas, with Starbucks dotting the pathways every 300 yards or so.

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    • Hopper

      Pioneer Square and SoDo are “wealthy, old neighborhoods?”

      Someone doesn’t know Seattle very well.

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    • The Imperative Voice

      I think they pick Columbus for the mix of home atmosphere and, let’s be real, like you said, they are gaming the attendance demographics, ie, trying to find someplace with less Mexico fan turnout. [Hint: you can do this more effectively and less brutally by making fans register with USSF as US fans in order to buy home tickets. This is what the English FA does. But then we’d be giving up ticket sales…..]

      And then there is some history.

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  • beto

    I like the picks! close to what i picked out in the beginning of the year. USSF is really using the rocky mountain altitude to their advantage this time around..

    it would be nice to get the east coast involved with Philly, Hartford or DC but i think all of these venues gives us a much better home field advantage.

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  • SD

    Red Bull Arena will not give the USA home field advantage. Very high probability that the opposing crowd would outnumber the US crowd….

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  • Casey

    I’d have liked to see one in Houston or Dallas as those are nearby to me, but I understand it would lead to some partisan crowds.

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    • The Imperative Voice

      Hmmmm the issue I see after Canada is that the sort of quali Houston could host without threatening a “road home” crowd, like Jamaica or Panama, might not actually sell here. If Honduras or Mexico came we’d sell out but at the expense of home atmosphere.

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  • Old School

    Closing in? Sounds like a job for 3 defensive midfielders.

    All jokes aside: LSP, LSP, LSP (or whatever they’re calling it now).

    Until Seattle or Portland add grass or a pitch that’s an appropriate size, their amazing fan base will continue to be deprived.

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  • Charles Fix

    I would rather see Honduras. I have a feeling, unless the tickets are through the roof ( >$50, for the cheap seats ), that Seattle will sell out VERY quickly. I would be shocked if Seattle isn’t the mainstay after this, just too many fans and too much money.

    Plus my tailgate will be recorded in the record books. You coming to my party, Ives ?

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    • drew11

      What does MLS attendance have to do with the HEX? Seattle is nothing special for Nat games. A lot of places would get big crowds for HEX games.

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      • johnnycougar

        Probably just an indication that the full stadium would sell out for a Nat game. The stadium seats 67000, though they somehow average almost 68000 for Seahawks games. I don’t know if they’ll open the whole stadium for that one.

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  • Colin

    How does one go about getting tix to hex games, I read on the Sounders website that season ticket holders will have first claim at tix, I live in Austin Tx but I def want to head up for Seattle game.

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    • beto

      join AO-Austin. so far the games always go to a national AO pre-sale, then (maybe) MLS season ticket holders presale, then ticketmaster…

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    • Charles Fix

      I wondered about the priority. I am glad as I am a season ticket holder, but wow. That will leave the 27,000 seats of the upper bowl for sure left over. IF they let us by more than 1 for 1 tickets, not even that will be left.

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    • RB

      Join USSSC. Got my tickets today for the March 22nd WCQ in Denver, during the pre-sale for members. 4th row between 18 and center.

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      • RB

        Whereas the Rapids front office just posted on Facebook, over 24 hours later, to the effect that their pre-sale code will soon be sent out via email to season ticket holders.

        Dunno if this is the same situation for all such matches but if so, it seems a number of MLS season ticket holders here may be disappointed in thinking that they’re first in line.

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  • NickCO

    Is Seattle required to install a grass field for the game (hope so)? I’m excited to see the rabid fans in the PNW get a game.

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    • Hogatroge

      Live in a parallel universe where people in Louisiana care about soccer (or any other sports except for hunting, fishing, LSU football, or the New Orleans Saints).

      Source: Lived in Louisiana for several years.

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    • alabamafutbol

      about the same time Tuscaloosa does… sigh. Although, we shockingly had a qualifier in Birmingham in 2005. Still don’t know how we pulled that off lol

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      • byrdman

        I was there with my young sons. One of the funnest sporting events I ‘ve ever been to. It got me hooked on the game, and the USMNT. I always sort of followed the team, all the way back to Mike Burns and Bruce Murray days. But the qualifier was a terrific experience.

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  • El Paso TX

    Awesome, every year it keeps getting better for the nats. Seattle, portland, salt lake, columbus, are very good venues and a must for the national team and at the end of the day, depending on the population demographics which has to favor U.S., will decide where the nats will play. For example, if U.S. play Mexico, well mexican americans are everywhere so keep it northwest,midwest,southeast, northeast but the problem is that even a Honduran or Salvadoran will root against the U.S. I even heard seattle and portland have a large mexican population. At the end of the day U.S. has any kind of ethnicity in every corner of the country and SUM should stop helping Mexico and other latino countries with their friendlies because it kills USA fan momentum.

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    • drew11

      I am tired of Columbus having a birthright to a HEX slot. I know it’s a tradition but the place reeks of MLS circa 1998. Would a smack down by MEX be enough to get us out of that dump of a high school stadium?

      Personally I would move MEX to KC and put a game in the Southeast someplace. Salt Lake + Colorado + Seattle. is also crazy. I really hope we won’t see that again for a HEX.

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      • David Nack

        Most people agree if Crew Stadium wasn’t built, we would not have an MLS today.

        Just like Fenway and other older sport places that are dumps compared to new stadium, tradition and WINNING is more important than a nice seat and new LED scoreboard.

        Ask Tim Howard about the Crew Jamaica game support, the best he has heard or seen regardless of stadium age or size.

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      • Scott

        Stop with the logic. You are interfering with my selfish interest of being able to make a meaningful game and being able to bring my kids without missing school and soccer practice. I guess that I will have to settle for the rare friendly that is only 5 hours away.

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      • guwinster

        They should have put the Mexico game in Seattle and thrown the Panama game to Columbus. We aren’t going to have cold weather for the Mexico game no matter where we put it so we should have played it where there would be the biggest (and in all likelihood a pro-US) crowd.

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      • jb

        That’s the point of having that match in Columbus. Because it WILL be the biggest % pro-US crowd.

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  • El Paso TX

    As a matter of fact, I love the home depot center for the U.S. but that thing of HDC has to be remodel since its mls 1.0 and we are talking about L.A. Imagine having a red bull arena or sporting park in LA, wowsers that would be rocking for the nats in L.A. with the superstar power in Los Angeles. Same thing for Columbus, get a new stadium and even MLS2 should help the nats.

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    • Hogatroge

      That would work for the Jamaica game, maybe. In LA, foreign fans will outnumber Americans. The 2011 Gold Cup final might as well have been at the Azteca.

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      • FSegaud

        2011 Gold Cup was still more pro USA than any USA-MEX in So. Cal during the 90’s….slooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwww progress.

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  • SoB

    If you wanted a home field advantage on the east coast it would have to be PPL Park. I’m surprised that the East Coast is potentially snubbed. Philly or Hartford would both have raucous U.S. crowds.

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  • THomas

    Could we see tickets offered by Seattle to their cascadia rivals in Portland to keep as many opposing fans out as possible? Could be interesting getting Sams Army, the AOs, Seattle, and whoever else to all cooperate and make a unified, intimidating, environment.

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  • Gene

    By the way, this is consistent with what Sunil Gulati told Steve Goff at the Washington Post last week: World Cup qualifying home venues…..

    “I think you will see us play in this round in five MLS venues and four soccer-specific stadiums. I think that is how it is shaping up. And none of the soccer-specific venues will be in New Jersey or in Los Angeles and so on.”

    Denver is set for March against Costa Rica. Kansas City, Salt Lake City and Columbus are strong candidates. That would appear to leave Seattle, which has the best support in MLS by a large margin, as the fifth. Washington (RFK Stadium or FedEx Field) is tentatively set to host a U.S.-Germany friendly June 2. Cleveland reportedly is the front-runner for a U.S.-Belgium game in late May.

    Like

  • BamaMan

    One qualifier east of the Mississippi. Zero south of the Mason-Dixon line. I am in favor of the MLS stadium strategy, but soccer can’t afford to ignore the fastest growing region of the country forever.

    Like

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