With ticket sales soaring for U.S. team matches, Women's World Cup organizers will consider opening the upper deck at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium Thursday for a quarterfinal doubleheader that likely will include the Americans.
More than 3,000 tickets were sold Friday, increasing the advance sale to 35,000 -- about 6,100 short of capacity under the tournament's downsizing plan at the two-year-old stadium in Landover.
"We're assessing the situation," tournament president and CEO Marla Messing said yesterday from Chicago. "We really need to determine if there is sufficient demand to open more sections and, if so, what would be the most appropriate way of doing it."
Messing had said last week that there were no plans to make more tickets available at Cooke Stadium, which holds 80,116 for Washington Redskins games. But the U.S. team has drawn sellout crowds of 78,792 at Giants Stadium outside New York and 65,080 at Soldier Field in Chicago for its first two games, and more than 50,000 are expected for the Americans' first-round finale against North Korea tonight at Foxboro (Mass.) Stadium.
Anything except a lopsided loss to the Koreans will send the United States to the quarterfinals here Thursday.
Messing said she will monitor ticket sales over the next day or two before deciding whether to open the upper deck to accommodate more fans.
For first-round doubleheaders last Wednesday and this afternoon, seats in the lower bowl and some sections in the club level were available to create a downsized capacity of 26,757.
A crowd of 16,448 attended Wednesday's games and more than 20,000 tickets have been sold for today's games featuring Brazil against Germany and Nigeria vs. Denmark.
Stadium management would have no trouble accommodating a bigger crowd Thursday, Washington venue director Heather Quinn said.
However, officials are trying to figure out how much to charge if they decide to expand capacity. Under the downsized plan, tickets for the quarterfinals cost $30, $50 and $75, but the cheapest seats behind the goals have been listed as sold out for a couple of weeks. If upper deck tickets are made available for $30, organizers fear upsetting fans who wanted the lower-priced seats but had to pay $50 or $75.
One plan under consideration has prices at $30 and $40 for the upper deck seats.
"We're looking at the entire situation," Messing said. "We want to be fair to everyone."
Although the possible U.S. match is the hottest ticket, today's games at Cooke Stadium are promising to be among the most competitive of the first round. In the opening game, 1995 runner-up Germany (1-0-1) faces rapidly developing Brazil (2-0) with first place in Group B at stake.
Although it appears both teams will advance regardless of the outcome, the top finisher probably avoids the United States in the quarterfinals. Brazil needs only a tie to clinch first.
"It's an important game for both teams, and it's important to be first," Germany Coach Tina Theune-Meyer said. "The U.S. team is very strong and everyone would prefer not to play them."
Germany will get a boost from veteran midfielder Martina Voss, who in her third Women's World Cup missed the first two games with a quadriceps injury. Theune-Meyer said Voss will start.
Brazil turns to midfielder Sissi, who has a tournament-high five goals, and forward Pretinha, who has three. Goalkeeper Maravilha saved a penalty kick against Italy Thursday.
In the second game, Nigeria (1-1) meets Denmark (0-2) in a Group A match featuring contrasting playing styles. The fast-paced Nigerians, who lost 7-1 to the United States Thursday, can advance by winning here and hoping the North Koreans do not beat the Americans. Denmark is a strong defensive team that has scored only one goal.
Notes: Germany star defender Steffi Jones, who has a German mother and American father, had hoped her dad would travel from his home in San Antonio to see her play today. But Jones, who has seen him only once in more than 20 years, said yesterday that she talked to him Friday night and that he couldn't come. She did say, however, that they plan to meet later this week or next.
CAPTION: Today's Games (This graphic was not available)