Tuesday, March 31, 2009

LP Field hosts its first World Cup qualifier tomorrow night with U.S. v. Trinidad & Tobago; crowd draw appears strong

The U.S. Men's National Soccer Team will play tomorrow night, April 1, in the first World Cup qualifier game ever to be played at LP Field. The U.S. team faces Trinidad & Tobago at the official game time of 6:45pm, with the televised kickoff (after 12 minutes of introductions and anthems, perhaps) at 6:57pm on ESPN2 and Galavision. The forecast is for mostly sunny/party cloudy weather.

"We are very excited to be playing such an important World Cup qualifying match in Nashville"

"We look forward to tremendous support from the fans"

U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Bob Bradley is optimistic about tomorrow night's game: "We are very excited to be playing such an important World Cup qualifying match in Nashville. We have had very good experiences there, both in 2006 before the World Cup and during qualifying for the 2008 Olympic Games. LP Field is an excellent facility, and we look forward to tremendous support from the fans."

Ticket sales are building. A story yesterday in the Tennessean reported that sales were at 15,000; a Washington Post reporter had it at 17,000 yesterday, and the Tennessean is reporting 18,000 as of today, with "[r]oughly 55 percent of the tickets ... sold to people outside of metro Nashville."

Young soccer fans "geeked up about it"

The Tennessean story yesterday reported that youth soccer is fueling interest in the game:
[A] strong youth presence is expected.
According to the Tennessee State Soccer Association, there are more than 45,000 youth soccer players in the state. By comparison, there are about 38,000 Little League baseball and softball players in the state, according to Little League baseball officials.
"The kids are very geeked up about it," said Mike McCabe, president of the Tennessee Futbol Club, a youth soccer association based in Franklin. "The older kids are looking very forward to being able to see the U.S. national team playing the sport that they play, and it's in Tennessee."

Record walk-up crowd possible

The Washington Post's Steven Goff reported here the good sales numbers may get even better than the current tallies, considering the walk-up potential:
More than 17,000 tickets have been sold -- not bad for a mid-week match against a secondary opponent in a secondary soccer market -- and, with good weather, organizers are hoping for a nice walk-up crowd.
It wouldn't be the first time this venue saw a big walk-up for a soccer game, according to the Tennessean here:
In 2006, when the U.S. team played Morocco in a send-off match prior to the World Cup, nearly 6,000 of the more than 26,000 fans bought tickets at the gate, marking the largest walk-up crowd in the stadium's history, MacLachlan said.
The 2006 Morocco game at LP Field was after the U.S. team had already qualified for the World Cup in Germany (Hispanic Nashville Notebook story here).

U.S. has formidable record but weak showing in last game

This game will be the second of five home qualifiers for the U.S. team on the road to the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, which would be the team's sixth straight World Cup appearance. The U.S. has never lost to Trinidad & Tobago on home soil, but Los Angeles soccer columnist Nick Green warns against getting ahead of ourselves:
Name the national team that sits in sole possession of first place in its group in World Cup qualifying, has just one loss in 10 qualifiers and is undefeated at home in its region over an astonishing 50-game span.

Now name the national team that eked out a tie in its last game against an opponent that sits 89 places below it in the FIFA rankings and that before this weekend hadn't even managed to score a goal against that nation in a dozen years.

If you answered the U.S. to both questions you're not only right, you've also illustrated the is-the-cup-half-full- or-half-empty question in the wake of the 2-2 tie with El Salvador Saturday and ahead of the next World Cup qualifier Wednesday against Trinidad & Tobago in Nashville.
Tickets for tomorrow night's game in Nashville range from $20 to $70 and are available at Ticketmaster.com, ussoccer.com, in person at Ticketmaster outlets like Kroger, at LP Field, and by phone (1-800-745-3000). Parking at LP Field is $15.

Photo by Chris "Mojo" Denbow. Licensed under Creative Commons.

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