When US Soccer and the US World Cup Bid Committee, launched “The Game is in US” campaign at the beginning of the fall, the 27 potential host cities for World Cup games were asked have petitions signed to show local fan support for the efforts.
As an analyst, I had determined my final eighteen cities would be the following.
- Atlanta, Houston, Tampa, Orlando, Dallas, Charlotte, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Oakland, Seattle, Denver, St Louis Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington, Baltimore.
- Cities, I felt should be cut were Miami, Jacksonville, Nashville, San Diego, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Detroit, and San Francisco.
This list was determined by demographic considerations, as well as the relative success of professional soccer in those markets as well as past support for US National Team and other international friendly matches. Additionally, modern facilities and availability of hotel rooms and tourist attractions also were considerations in my initial list.
In the case of San Francisco and Oakland, I had determined that the Oakland Coliseum, potentially renovated by the time 2018 or 2022 rolled around is better for the sport than any current venue in San Francisco.
The reason US Soccer wisely opened up the petition process was to determine which cities had the most interest in hosting a World Cup, and also to test the organization of all the cities bidding.
Here are the current numbers of signatures for each potential host city as of January 9th, 2010
Kansas City 10,733
San Diego 5,618
New York 4,476
St Louis 3,702
Los Angeles 3,332
San Francisco 1,281
While it is obvious some automatic host cities like New York, Washington and Chicago do not need to fret about their potential to host World Cup matches based on the above table, some marginal cities I had in my final 18 are now going to be cut from my list. These include Orlando, Denver, Oakland and Phoenix.
Miami made most people’s final eighteen, but initially not mine. I live in the area and feared hosting the World Cup locally would simply be like another American sporting event to the local press. But impressively, Miami is in the top five for total signatures and moves into my list replacing Orlando.
More importantly, Miami is a vital tourist destination and city known the world over. The 1994 World Cup snub, in favor of Orlando has left the area leaving nothing to chance. Miami FC has been on the forefront of gathering the signatures, a sign that even if local don’t embrace professional soccer the way they should, the local team is well organized and doing a good job.
Logistics still favor Orlando however, as Miami is a geographic outlier that very well could adversely affect travel during the competition.
Kansas City and Indianapolis are geographically close to one another and provide the ability to have a regional “pod” of matches with Chicago, and St Louis so they move into my list replacing Denver and Phoenix.
Regarding Oakland, I just could not see a nationwide event of epic proportions being held without the San Francisco Bay Area represented, so I moved them back on my list (after tentatively taking them off).
Looking again at the list itself, we’ve already discussed Miami, which is in the top five overall, but I think it is most important to note how successful Houston, Philadelphia and Seattle have been. Not only does MLS draw more interest in those cities than in the markets where the league has been longer term, but the teams and their fans are more organized as evidenced by this list. The fan power in these cities outweighs that of established MLS cities, except for Kansas City, whose showing as we noted above is impressive.
Atlanta, the other city in the top five, is a no brainer for any major sporting event after having so successfully hosted the 1996 Summer Olympics. With the Atlanta Silverbacks returning to the professional fold for the 2011 NASL season, the city is a lock to host World Cup matches.