- The Washington Times - Monday, June 16, 2003

Soccer fans will get an opportunity to see the U.S. Women’s World Cup team play in the nation’s capital.

U.S. Soccer announced the dates and venues for the entire 32-match, 23-day Women’s World Cup, and RFK Stadium will play host to the first U.S. women’s national team match and the opening ceremonies Sept.21.

Following the RFK opener, the U.S. women will play their second match in Philadelphia’s new Lincoln Financial Field on Sept.25 and conclude first-round play Sept.28 at Columbus (Ohio) Crew Stadium, the first soccer-specific stadium constructed in the United States.

China was the original host country for the World Cup, but the games were moved because of fears of the SARS virus.

Meanwhile, District mayor Anthony Williams and U.S. Soccer officials talked positively about the prospects of getting a soccer-specific stadium built in the city. Williams recently toured the new soccer-specific Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.

“That’s the dream we have for our city, to be another location and site for world-class soccer,” Williams said.

Negotiations between the city and Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), the company that owns and operates D.C. United and five other Major League Soccer teams, to construct a soccer-only complex in the city have been ongoing for more than two years. No deal is imminent, but the talks have been substantive, and both sides are eagerly pursuing a final deal.

“The future of soccer in the United States is soccer-specific stadiums,” U.S. Soccer president S. Robert Contiguglia said. “We said [to FIFA during the World Cup bid process] that our soccer-specific stadiums that we are building are the forerunners of what we see as a footprint for the sport in the U.S. in the future. Those stadiums are, of course, Columbus Crew Stadium and now our new Home Depot Center that we look at as the crown jewel and the precursor to other soccer-specific stadiums across the country, such as Frisco [Texas] and hopefully here in D.C. and the New York metropolitan area.”

The United States, a prohibitive favorite to win its third World Cup, is the only team in the 16-team field that will not stay in the same city for two consecutive matches.

Should the U.S. women advance to the single-elimination stage, they will play a quarterfinal match Oct.1 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass., and a semifinal match at PGE Park in Portland, Ore., on Oct.5. If the U.S. women advance to the Oct.12 championship game at Home Depot Center, they will have played one game in all six venues.

“We thought what made this tournament a national footprint was moving the U.S. team around,” said Dan Flynn, U.S. Soccer’s secretary general. “That’s essentially what we did in 1999, and that’s one of the factors that are a must in making this a national footprint and making it the best tournament that we can make it.”

The 2003 Women’s World Cup actually will begin Sept.20 with a doubleheader at Lincoln Financial Field. There will be 17 playing dates with 15 doubleheaders, a third-place match and a championship game.

With Asian zone qualifying still under way in Bangkok, the World Cup draw won’t take place until sometime in mid-July. Thirteen of the 16 teams have qualified so far. ABC and ESPN will televise the games, both in prime time and afternoon time slots, and the TV schedule will be announced next week.

After the U.S. women’s opener, RFK will play host to doubleheaders Sept.24 and Sept.27, featuring action from Groups A, B and C. The U.S. women are in Group A. By securing the 2003 Women’s World Cup, RFK will join the Rose Bowl and Stanford Stadium as the only stadiums in the world to have played host to matches in a FIFA World Cup, FIFA Women’s World Cup and an Olympic soccer tournament.

“A sellout stadium, that’s what I’m predicting Sept.21 here at RFK,” said Tony DiCicco, commissioner of the Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA). “It’s going to be rocking. One of the exciting moments in women’s soccer will be launched — the 2003 World Cup, again in America, and here at RFK.”

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