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Should U.S. Soccer Diversify Venue Selection for the Men’s National Team?

14 Nov, 2018

By: Michael Popke

The United States Men’s National Team for soccer needs to broaden its venue selection process. That’s according to a recent opinion piece posted on SBNation.

“Too many fans throughout the country are unable to watch the team within a reasonable driving distance of their homes, and it’s about time that U.S. Soccer cast a wider net,” claims soccer writer Alex Showell, who determined that the USMNT has played games in 28 states — but 13 of those states have hosted the team 10 or more times, with California leading the way with a whopping 110 all-time matches. Florida is a distant second, hosting the team 44 times.

The piece notes that Team USA has never competed in Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Hawaii, Alaska, Montana, Wyoming, Nevada, the Dakotas, Kentucky, West Virginia, Delaware, Nebraska, Idaho or Iowa. The USMNT will play its first-ever match in Minnesota on June 18 at Allianz Field in St. Paul to open 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup play.

Showell contends that several venues around the country are capable of hosting world-class soccer matches:

Several of these states, such as Alaska, will likely never host matches due to small populations or somewhat close proximity to states where the USMNT regularly plays. However, there is no obvious reason why other states that haven’t hosted matches shouldn’t have that opportunity. The last time the USMNT was in Wisconsin was in 1990, despite Lambeau Field (home of the NFL’s Green Bay Packers) being a great stadium with a grass field. 

The USMNT hasn’t played in Indiana since 1988 and no part of New York state, other than New York City, has ever hosted a match. The team has only played in Detroit, Michigan once and Oregon hasn’t hosted a match since the 2013 Gold Cup. 

While many states lack large, top-tier stadiums with natural grass surfaces, this hasn’t stopped U.S. Soccer from rolling out grass on top of turf at venues like MetLife Stadium, Gillette Stadium and CenturyLink Field in recent years. Almost every state the USMNT has never been to or hasn’t played in recently is home to a college football or NFL stadium that could host a match, assuming that the dimensions of the playing surface are wide enough for international play.

If U.S. Soccer is concerned about fan turnout, as Showell speculates, consider that the USMNT has played in front of only about 9,000 spectators in such large cities as Washington, D.C., and Kansas City — an attendance mark Showell claims many other cities that have never or rarely hosted the USMNT could easily meet. 

“The USMNT shouldn’t only be accessible to those living in California or the Northeast,” he concludes. “The next Clint Dempsey just might be inspired to start playing soccer after watching a USMNT game in Honolulu or Las Vegas.”

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