It has been reported that the United States Soccer Federation will announce the venue for the March 22nd World Cup qualifier this week. Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl reported yesterday on Fox Soccer that Kansas City, Kan. is being considered for the March qualifier against Costa Rica, along with Denver, Colo. and Salt Lake City, Utah. We believe that when the U.S. Soccer Federation finishes selecting venues for the final round of qualifying that LIVESTRONG Sporting Park should be a host site.
There should be only one rule when choosing a site for a World Cup qualifier: don't overthink it. Don't choose a site because you think there is potential to grow the game there in the future; don't choose a site with a choppy field; don't choose a site because you think it will offer you a conditioning advantage for a game four days later. Choose a venue because you think it will let the U.S. Men's National Team play soccer on their terms and win.
LIVESTRONG Sporting Park is that venue. The crowd, the gleaming facilities, and results all show LIVESTRONG Sporting Park has quickly become America's best location for a World Cup Qualifier. Consider how some of US Soccer's biggest names view Kansas City:
"We all look forward to big nights...[playing in Kansas City] you can feel the excitement. You can feel the passion for the game and the national team. The opportunity for us to step on the field in a beautiful stadium on a great field in front of a big-time American crowd, that is something we don’t get all the time. It’s another mark of good progress in our country. We want to make sure we use the support as a way to push us on."
-Jürgen Klinsmann, October 2012
USSF President Sunil Gulati recently outlined what they were considering in their selection for a host venue, including "stadium size, time zone, fan demographics, field surface, and weather." LIVESTRONG Sporting Park checks each of those boxes.
LSP is large enough to create a passionate home base, small enough to keep it pro-American. Kansas City's central location offers a convenient location for traveling fans and players. For European-based players, the distance from London to Kansas City is shorter than the distance from London to Miami, Fla. The Kansas City metro area has comparatively small numbers of fans inclined to support most opposing CONCACAF sides. The reinforced grass field is a performance-grade surface that performed beautifully during a busy 2012 calendar. It is a wide field suitable for the attacking 4-3-3 style Klinsmann wants to play. The weather offers the best combination for US home-field advantage: cooler and drier than most places to increase the chance the game can be played on a fast field.
This is a town that turned out 20,000 to watch the USA play Guadeloupe in the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup. A town that provided a decided home-field advantage must-win final game of third round World Cup qualifying against Guatemala in October. If the fifth and final Hexagonal round home game is granted to Kansas City against Jamaica on October 15, it could be viewed as an admission that the USSF designates KC as its host site for "must win" games.
I wrote a bit earlier this week on why LIVESTRONG may have some strong competition for hosting qualifiers later in the decade, but not now. Don't overthink it: bring a qualifier in Kansas City.