Washington, Baltimore remain in contention to host World Cup in 2018, 2022

By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 13, 2010; D08

Washington and Baltimore have made the World Cup cut -- for now.

Both cities will be among the 18 sites included in the formal U.S. bid to host the World Cup in 2018 or 2022. FIFA, the sport's international governing body, will select the host countries for both tournaments in December.

If the United States is chosen, the number of venues would be reduced to 12 about five years before the event. Baltimore's proposed venue is M&T Bank Stadium, home of the NFL's Ravens. Washington's site is FedEx Field, which can accommodate more than 91,000 for Redskins games and has hosted international soccer matches.

On Tuesday, the USA Bid Committee sliced the list of candidates to 18 from 27. Joining Washington and Baltimore are New York/New Jersey, Philadelphia, Boston, Miami, Tampa, Atlanta, Nashville, Indianapolis, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, Mo., Denver, Phoenix, San Diego, Los Angeles and Seattle.

Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Jacksonville, Orlando, San Francisco, Oakland, St. Louis and Charlotte were eliminated. The biggest surprise was Chicago, which is home to the U.S. Soccer Federation, hosted the opening match of the 1994 World Cup and has staged numerous major games at Soldier Field.

"Chicago has a rich soccer history, but it was clear to us Olympic fatigue became a factor," committee chairman Sunil Gulati said, referring to the city's failed attempt last year to host the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Though chances seem slim that both Washington and Baltimore would be selected to stage games in a nationwide tournament, it is not uncommon for World Cup venues to be near one another. At this summer's tournament in South Africa, two stadiums in the Johannesburg area will be used.

"We haven't said it will be one or the other," said Gulati, who is also the U.S. Soccer Federation president. "Both are very serious candidates."

Washington was among nine cities utilized in 1994, with five matches played at RFK Stadium. Traditionally, the capital city in a World Cup host country has played a prominent role in the event and is an automatic candidate to stage the championship game.

England, which hasn't hosted the World Cup since 1966, is the favorite for the 2018 rights ahead of the United States, Australia, Japan, Russia and joint bids expected to be submitted by Netherlands-Belgium and Portugal-Spain.

Indonesia, South Korea and Qatar are bidding for the 2022 tournament only. If England is awarded the '18 Cup, the other European candidates will become ineligible for 2022, bolstering the U.S. chances.

The United States holds the World Cup attendance record with nearly 3.6 million spectators for 52 matches in 1994. Germany drew 3.3 million for 64 games in 2006.

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