Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Attendance a key if Tampa wants to host World Cup games

TAMPA — If the United States wins the right to host the 2018 or 2022 World Cup, organizers will have to pare the list of cities, which includes Tampa, from 18 to 12 or, perhaps, 14.

To make that final cut, which won't happen until five years before the event, U.S. Soccer president and USA Bid Committee chairman Sunil Gulati said cities will "need to distinguish themselves."

How? A tangible sign of support for the sport will be critical, which brings us to Wednesday's U.S. national team game against El Salvador at Raymond James Stadium. The men's national team hadn't been here since March 2007.

This game drew 20,086, according to the Tampa Sports Authority, filling in a good portion of the lower bowl.

"In some of the markets with MLS teams, it's very easy to gauge the support of soccer," said Farrukh Quraishi, the former Tampa Bay Rowdies star and vice chairman of the local bid group. "In other markets, like Tampa … events like these are important."

The goal for Wednesday was about 15,000 given the day of the week, an opponent that lacked panache, a U.S. roster lacking A-list players and only a few weeks to promote it. Consider: The United States, with a similar roster of MLS players, drew an announced 18,626 for a match against Honduras on Jan. 23 in Carson, Calif.

Raymond James Stadium did get an early endorsement from U.S. coach Bob Bradley, who has been here several times, including coaching in MLS when Tampa had a team.

"It's a great stadium. The quality of the playing surface is usually very, very good," he said. "For sure, I think it's a facility that stands up well."

Fan favorites: In addition to American F Jeff Cunningham (Crystal River High, USF) and GK Troy Perkins (USF), M Dax McCarty (Winter Park) had a nice cheering section.

"Since the (Miami) Fusion and the Mutiny are no longer a part of MLS, there's not much professional soccer in the Southeast," McCarty said before the game. "So my friends and family don't get a chance to see me play that much unless it's on TV."

None of the three started, but Cunningham and McCarty played in the second half.

Up next: The Americans, with their foreign-based players, head to Amsterdam for a friendly against a world powerhouse, the Netherlands, on March 3. That's a long-circled date on the road to this summer's World Cup in South Africa.

"After that, the next time we'll all be together is the middle of May and we'll be starting for real," Bradley said. "We're excited about the game. Any time you play a team with the kind of talent Holland possesses, it's exciting."

Stars of tomorrow: F Kellen Gulley scored two goals to lead the U.S. under-17 men's team to a 4-1 win against Mexico in the night's first game. Tarik Salkicic (Pinellas Park) started for the United States and said it was his best game with the team.

"I got my confidence back," Salkicic said of the adjustment from attacking midfielder to defensive midfielder. "When I first started, I wasn't that good at it. But then I started learning my job is to take the ball, tackle the ball and play simple from there."

Attendance a key if Tampa wants to host World Cup games 02/24/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 24, 2010 10:51pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. For starters: Rays looking to get even with Angels, with no TV


    The Rays are looking for a split in the four-game series with the Angels in today's 1:10 matinee, a game that is not on TV in the Tampa Bay market.

    RHP Matt Andriese will start for the Rays, seeking to go deeper than his last start, when he was ejected after hitting New York's Aaron Judge with his first pitch …

  2. It's official: Bucs, Jaguars set joint practices for August


    It's been reported for some time, but the Bucs announced Thursday that they'll hold two joint practices with the Jaguars in Jacksonville on Aug. 14-15.

  3. Florida Gators to host South Alabama in 2020


    The Florida Gators will host South Alabama in 2020, UF announced Thursday morning.

  4. Bishop McLaughlin defies expectations in getting back to state


    SHADY HILLS — For the second time in three seasons, Bishop McLaughlin is one of the four best teams in Class 3A, but this Hurricane team couldn't be more different than its predecessor.

    Pitcher Dominic Diaz warms up his arm in practice at Bishop McLaughlin Catholic High School in Spring Hill, Florida on Monday, May 22, 2017.
  5. Bucs to add linebacker from Germany for 2017 practice squad


    The Bucs will be part of a new NFL program this fall that will grant an 11th practice squad slot to an overseas player, with German-born Eric Nzeocha, a linebacker who played at the University of Wyoming, slated to join Tampa Bay's roster for the 2017 season.

    Wyoming linebacker Eric Nzeocha, 24, will be an 11th member of the Bucs' practice squad in 2017 as part of a program to bring more international players to the NFL. He was born in Germany but played in college at Wyoming.