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)

U.S. men's soccer team prepares for World Cup qualifier at Raymond James Stadium tonight

TAMPA — When the United States embarks on its quest to capture the 2014 World Cup with a qualifier tonight against Antigua and Barbuda, it will make history for Tampa.

The match, which starts at 7 p.m. at Raymond James Stadium, will be the first time the city has hosted a World Cup qualifier.

The full men's national team has twice played at the stadium, beating Ecuador 3-1 in a 2007 international friendly match and losing 2-1 to Panama last year during Gold Cup pool play.

"We've had a great relationship with the men's national team over the years," Tampa Sports Commission executive director Rob Higgins said. "We expect a great night of action."

To prep the bay area's soccer community, the Tampa Sports Commission has been aggressively promoting the match for the past few months.

"Our advertising campaign has been very grassroots," Higgins said. "We've reached out to all walks of the community, including our ties with former and current Rowdies, the Mutiny, the (University of South Florida and University of Tampa) community and local businesses."

One of the main targets of the advertising efforts is local soccer clubs. Tampa Bay United coach Jim Cote said his club will be well represented at tonight's match.

"I believe there are about 600 to 700 players from our club who will be attending," Cote said. "If you include parents and coaches, the number is well into the thousands."

The men's national team has been gaining international recognition during the past decade and, subsequently, raising its profile.

The team accomplished two major goals not seen since 1930 — reaching the World Cup quarterfinals in 2002 and winning their group in 2010. In addition, the United States owns wins against international heavyweights Spain and Italy over the past few years and one of its stars, striker Clint Dempsey, recently became the most prolific scorer in the prestigious English Premier League.

"I think the team is anxious," U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. "They want to get this whole thing started. World Cup qualifying is a long stretch. It's a marathon of 16 games to get to Brazil, and this is now the first one."

This, combined with a strong effort from the Antigua and Barbuda Football Association, gave Higgins reason to expect tonight's attendance to fall somewhere between the Ecuador (31,547) and Panama (27,731) figures.

"The attendance at both of those matches was great and we expect the same," he said. "And if the weather holds up, soccer traditionally is a big walk-up market."

The Antigua association blocked off 4,000 seats for the match. Rupert Blaize, ambassador at large for Antigua and Barbuda, said he expects its section to fill up, and the number of fans could swell to 6,000.

"You will see an invasion of sorts from all around the U.S.," he said. "Antiguans are beyond excited for this opportunity."

If the Antiguans do bring 6,000, it will be significant given that two-thirds of the tiny Caribbean country's entire population could fit inside Raymond James Stadium. Blaize said Antigua and Barbuda is eager to play its first national team match on American soil.

"Reaching this point has created a big forward movement for football in Antigua," Blaize said. "We are just thrilled to be in position to show our skills on this stage."

Brandon Wright can be reached at

If you go

The United States will play a 2014 qualifier against Antigua and Barbuda at 7 p.m. today at Raymond James Stadium. Tickets are $22 to $199. The RayJay ticket office is open starting at 10 a.m. today..


If you go

The United States will play a 2014 World Cup qualifier against Antigua and Barbuda at 7 p.m. today at Raymond James Stadium. Tickets are $22 to $199. The stadium's ticket office opens at 10 a.m. today.

U.S. men's soccer team prepares for World Cup qualifier at Raymond James Stadium tonight 06/07/12 [Last modified: Thursday, June 7, 2012 11:58pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rick and Tom podcast: Lots of questions for college football teams in Florida


    In just three weeks, the state of college football in Florida went from high expectations to lots of questions at USF with slow starts, Florida with no offense and Florida State losing quarterback Deondre …

    Despite slow starts, quarterback Quinton Flowers and USF take a 3-0 record into tonight's game against Temple. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]
  2. Young girl injured by 105 mph foul at Yankee Stadium renews call for more netting


    NEW YORK — A young girl at Yankee Stadium was injured by a 105 mph foul ball off the bat of Todd Frazier during Wednesday's game against Minnesota, leading some players to call for protective netting to be extended.

    Baseball fans reacts as a young girl is tended to before she is carried out of the seating area after being hit by a line drive in the fifth inning of a baseball game between the New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, at Yankee Stadium in New York. [Associated Press]
  3. Morning after: Takeaways from Lightning exhibition


    For the Lightning, there was a lot to like in Wednesday's 4-3 exhibition win in Carolina.

    The Lightning's Erik Cernak, left, congratulates Adam Erne (73) following Erne's goal against the Carolina Hurricanes.
  4. Life sentence for man convicted in killing of brother of Bucs' Kwon Alexander


    An Alabama man who shot and killed the 17-year-old brother of Bucs linebacker Kwon Alexander in 2015 was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday, the Anniston (Ala.) Star reported.