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USMNT Daily Update: Livestrong Park’s chance to be the new go-to WCQ venue



When the U.S. Men's National Team takes on Guatemala at Livestrong Sporting Park next month in World Cup qualifying, there will be more on the line than a spot in the Hexagonal round of CONCACAF qualifying. The stadium the game is being played in will be competing for a new role as the national team's preferred home for marquee qualifiers.

Ever since that freezing winter day in 2001, when the U.S. beat Mexico in World Cup qualifying at Crew Stadium, Columbus has been adopted as the unofficial home for big national team matches. We have seen three USA-Mexico qualifiers played at Crew Stadium over the past decade, and each time American fans converged on the nation's first soccer-specific stadium and given the team a tangible home-field advantage. Earlier this month, in a must-win USA qualifier against Jamaica, we saw what was arguably the best crowd to ever watch a national team at Crew Stadium.

Given that impressive history you would think there would be no chance for Columbus to lose its place as the preferred USMNT venue for important matches, but that beautiful new stadium near the Kansas/Missouri border is threatening take that spot. The Oct. 16th qualifier at Livestrong Sporting Park will be the Kansas City market's chance to make the very case that it is ready to take the baton from Columbus.

So why would U.S. Soccer consider anywhere but Columbus, where the team has had so much success and where we have seen some of the best and most passionate American crowds ever, for matches like USA-Mexico qualifiers?

From a practical standpoint, Kansas City, Kansas, where Livestrong Park is located, is about as close to the exact middle of the country as you can get, which means the most central location possible. It would mean an approximately 1,200-mile shorter commute (round trip) to major national team matches for fans from at least half the country.

Then you have the fact that Livestrong Sporting Park is an immaculate new $200 million facility, one of the nation's true crown jewels for soccer. As important as Crew Stadium is to the history of Major League Soccer, and as amazing as the crowds have been at national team matches there, you can't deny that Crew Stadium just doesn't measure up to the new stadiums that have been built after it.

Lastly, you have an aggressive Sporting Kansas City ownership group that understands what it would mean for their stadium, and for soccer in the midwest, if major national team matches become the norm rather than a rarity. The value of being considered the home of the U.S. national team, even in an unofficial capacity, would be a boon for a club that has already made amazing strides in establishing itself, not just in the Kansas City market, but nationally.

We saw just how agressive Sporting KC's owners can be when Sporting Kansas City beat out big-spending Seattle Sounders for the right to host the 2012 U.S. Open Cup. People in Seattle will certainly point out that the bidding process seemed to be a curious one considering both clubs apparently made very comparable bids, but that is what stands out most in that whole situation. Sporting KC's owners managed to put up a competitive bid against a team that generates considerable more revenue, and a club that isn't still paying off the cost of a brand new stadium like Sporting KC's owners are.

As much as Sporting KC's owners will do their part to help push Livestrong Sporting Park, it will still be up to the fans to maximize the venue's potential on Oct. 16th. The upcoming qualifier against Guatemala will serve as an audition of sorts. A passionate and packed Livestrong Sporting Park will show U.S. Soccer officials that turning to Kansas City in 2013 for the USA-Mexico qualifier might not be a bad thing (assuming the USA qualifies for the final round of CONCACAF qualifying).

If that change does happen, and if we find ourselves heading to Livestrong Park next year, instead of Crew Stadium, for the USA-Mexico World Cup qualifier, there will be some inevitable sadness. Why? The fact is the USA has never lost in Columbus, and Crew Stadium has always produced amazing crowds and memories. Trips to Columbus for important matches have become traditions for countless fans throughout the country. The lasting memory of the U.S. national team at Crew Stadium will be that unforgettable crowd urging the team on in a must-win qualifier on Sept. 11th.

The emotion of that night won't soon be forgotten, and that memorable night only served to set the bar higher for the fans who travel to Kansas City for USA-Guatemala.

The Oct. 16th qualifier is going to be a dramatic event already because of what will be on the line for the national team, but the reality is that more than just a place in the Hexagonal is on the line. A chance to turn Livestrong Sporting Park into the U.S. national team's new unofficial home will also be on the line. Put that all together and you have the makings of an unforgettable night, and potentially the first of many memorable U.S. national team visits to Livestrong Sporting Park for important qualifiers.


  1. Thanks for your support. we wre on the same wave length I just got there first. I’ll buy you a beer if you come to columbus for USA Vs, Mexico!

  2. When it comes to fan support, the US used to do very well at RFK in DC. Although not soccer specific and an older stadium, there used to be terrific crowds there. Here’s another angle not considered. The US should train at altitude and then hold qualifiers at Dicks Sporting Goods Park outside of Denver. When playing sea level teams like Jamaica, by the last 15 minutes we would have a definite advantage. Also, it would help the US prepare for games at Azteca. Denver also has the advantage of being a hub airport.

  3. Fact is, we need more than one “friendly home” … EXACTLY!

    We are unlike ANY other country – a true melting pot. Therefore, at least for must-win games, the USMNT ought not play Mexico in Houston, Poland in Chicago, Costa Rica in LA, Canada in Detroit, Ireland in Boston, Cuba in Miami, or anyone in NYC.

  4. KC may be in the middle of the country geographically, but Columbus is within 8 hours driving distance of 47.76% of the population. KC has just over half of that number at 25.12%.

  5. “It would mean an approximately 1,200-mile shorter commute (round trip) to major national team matches for fans from at least half the country.”

    I’m afraid that quote from the article makes little sense. Moving the site a little closer to one coast of course will make it a bit shorter “commute” for residents of that coast, but BY DEFINITION, it makes the commute an equivalent amount longer from the other coast, so isn’t it a wash from that perspective?

    I agree with the posters who note that fans from one coast or the other probably won’t see travelling to one of those two cities versus the other as a major difference.

  6. Columbus ohio has more going for it than just a good history of success in WCQ and a Soccer specfic stadium.

    Columbus, Ohio is within 500 miles, of 147.5 million persons or 47.76% of the population of the United States.

    Add to that a small latin population and its no wonder it’s been so succesful. I’m sure kansas city will be a great venue but it makes it less convienent travel for east coast fans from New York, Philly, Boston etc…

  7. Exactly, SKC ticket holders and people on the mailing list sold THIS game out ahead of time through the pre-sale. Mexico fans wouldn’t even get a chance to sniff at it.

    LSP is an amazing venue, and I’ve been to a few of them now. No place in the country I’d rather see a footy match.

  8. Turf cannot be overcome for WCQ. They would have to drop a natural grass field on top for each and every qualifier. That would make them a money-losing proposition off the top.

    Never going to happen as long as they play there. I love the atmosphere at C-Link too. But it’s not.

  9. it’s America, dude. Everyone is an immigrant. Some of those immigrants still heavily support their country of origin’s sports teams. World Cup qualifying is done by regions. You do the math. It doesn’t “suck” anymore than Mexican immigrants choosing to still support Mexico sucks (or any country for that matter). That is to say that it doesn’t suck at all. It’s different, yes, but that’s because America is different. If we had to play Italy in WC qualifying, we wouldn’t play in NYC. If we had to play Poland to qualify, we wouldn’t play in Chicago. It doesn’t suck, it’s just the way it is.

  10. Cary Soccer Complex is/was/soon to be (not sure which) under renovation and even after this its maximum capacity will be around 10-12,000. Just enough for NASL which is where NC is in terms of soccer support. Charlotte to me is a better Atlanta in terms of fan support. You need a strong grass roots program to grow the game there. That means a strong NASL/USL base before MLS gives it a sniff.

  11. I can’t wait to visit LSP and see how great this place is. I like how the US will always travel around to home venues and there should never be a single national stadium.

    Assuming we get thru i hope to see Seattle and or Portland host a qualifier, its been a long time since they hosted a big US game and their support for club games is a huge home feild advantage. Other venues for qualifing should be: BBVA in Houston, looks like a cool stadium and in Dempsey’s home state, Home Depot Center in Carson (vs Jamaica or Canada no central american nations!), PPL Park, LS Park and Crew Stadium.

  12. I don’t think anyone has mentioned how the passion of fans in places like KC/Columbus compensates for media market size disadvantages. A bigger city isn’t necessarily a better venue. Pro sports teams have always struggled in Florida, for example. LA hasn’t been able to keep an NFL team. European fans have nothing on those from KC, Columbus and other “smaller” places.

    Plus SKC, in particular, draws large numbers of fans from Omaha and St. Louis, in addition to the KC area. I assume a lot of fans from Cleveland/Cincy/Pittsburgh/Indy drive to Columbus regularly. A huge event like a WCQ will accentuate this.

    On a fairly unrelated note, I hope both MLS and the USSF start expanding their reach to the Southeast. Soccer is huge in many areas there. To my knowledge, matches in Nashville have been successful. Cary (suburb of Raleigh) already has that huge soccer complex. Charlotte would also be a great soccer city. Cities with only one or two other pro sports franchises seem to be perfect for MLS clubs.

    Quite a few soccer fans in the Southeast don’t pay much attention to MLS because no team is even remotely close–DC or Houston!

  13. Oh and I’m not saying that all games should be played in those 3. Just that the US shouldn’t be afraid to play some games in big cities just because they are worried about the percentage of pro-US fans.

  14. No, I’m disparaging small markets. It has nothing to do with where it is located. There are lots of markets that I think are too small in the Northeast, South, and Southwest that I didn’t mention because nobody had suggested them.

  15. Um bryan, those demographics are completely wrong for Kansas City Metro, you are missing a WHOLE county in Kansas, Johnson County to be exact which consists of 552,000 people and many more counties surrounding the metro!! I don’t know where you got that information but its wrong, the KC metro alone is 2.1 Million people, according to your calculations its only about 600000………… Can you explain?

  16. I feel that I need to chime in here a little bit. I was at the last WCQ against Mexico in Columbus and I now live in KC and am a season ticket holder.

    1. Yes the crowd was about as pro US as you can get in columbus. But I was at that game and let me say that by sheer numbers the crowd was 50% for the US and 50% for mexico. So by no means is the demographics of the city the only factor (though it contributes

    2. Case in point, when I was in Columbus I asked a mexican supporter where he was from (I had traveled from Kentucky and figured that was a decent distance.) He said he was from Mexico. I assumed that was his heritage and I said “No, where did you travel from to come to the game?” and he said, “Mexico.”

    3. I think that a good season ticket holder base is more just as important and LSP has that. And having been to both Crew stadium and LSP, the atmosphere is WAAAY better at LSP. The stadium has covered seating all the way around and holds in the sound, the sight lines are much better, and the seats are right on top of the field. For me personally there is room for both yes, but if I had to choose one, it is a no brainer, LSP!

  17. So by your own convoluted logic, USMNT games should only be played in NYC, LA and Chicago because everywhere else is too “small of a market”? Sounds to me like you are, in fact, diparaging the midwest and northwest.

  18. You gotta factor in the current schedule this season.. Over an 8 day period there will be 4 games played at CL. Estimated attendance figures at close to 250K. Can a USMNT compete with that when the cost of installing grass and other perks come in to the picture?

    Gulati lets the networks set the time zones. It’s quite the expense to justify sending the ESPN satelite trucks to southern Alaska


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