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World Cup bidders narrowed to 19

By
JEFF SHAIN UPI Sports Writer

The organizing committee for the 1994 World Cup, trimming a top-heavy list of bidders to host games, named 19 cities Thursday to a 'priority list' that will receive inspection tours by world soccer's governing body.

Scheduled to receive visits by members of FIFA within the next five weeks are Atlanta; Boston-Foxboro, Mass.; Chicago; Columbus, Ohio; Dallas; Denver; Detroit-Pontiac, Mich.; Kansas City, Mo.; Los Angeles- Pasadena, Calif.; Miami; New Haven, Conn.; New Jersey; New Orleans; Orlando-Kissimmee, Fla.; Philadelphia; San Francisco; Seattle; Tampa, Fla.; and Washington.

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World Cup USA 1994 compiled the priority list from bids submitted by 26 communities to host games in world soccer's showcase event.

'The fact that we had 26 communities come forward with applications for games demonstrates the depth of commitment that soccer enjoys in the United States,' said Alan Rothenberg, president of the U.S. Soccer Federation and chairman of World Cup USA 1994. 'Needless to say, we had to make some very difficult and painful decisions in this process.'

Eliminated from consideration were Charlotte, N.C.; Honolulu; Houston; Knoxville, Tenn.; New York City; Phoenix; and Portland- Corvallis, Ore. However, Rothenberg said those bidders could re-enter the picture if problems arise with priority cities later in the venue- selection process.

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'I wish there was some way we could stage a World Cup in 26 cities because everybody was really wonderful,' Rothenberg said.

'It's amazing that merely a year-and-a-half ago there were skeptics who were saying we wouldn't even get eight qualified bidders to host the World Cup. The United States, as always, has shown those doubters to be wrong. We came up with 26 remarkable bids.'

Two groups of FIFA inspectors will visit the prospective venues in simuntaneous tours that begin Oct. 29 with stops in Philadelphia and Washington and end Nov. 7 in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

The organizing committee plans to make a recommendation of 12 cities to FIFA in early 1992, with the final decision resting in the hands of FIFA. Negotiations with each of the stadiums involved also must be finalized before the final selections are announced.

Once the host cities have been selected, a schedule of games, including the placement of the opening ceremonies and title game, will be drawn up next summer. That schedule also will be subject to FIFA approval.

Rothenberg said among the criteria officials used in creating the priority list were the size of the metropolitan area, the size and quality of bidding stadiums, the area's soccer history and commitment to the game, community support and geographical spread.

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'It would be safe to say that with respect to every one of the 26 cities, we have expended literally thousands of hours in reviewing the materials they have supplied and looking at each of the cities and stadiums,' said Chuck Cale, chief executive officer of World Cup USA 1994. 'This is something that has had a tremendous amount of input put into it.'

Four of the areas on the priority list -- Los Angeles-Pasadena, Miami, New Jersey and San Francisco-Palo Alto -- have submitted bids for more than one stadium. Rothenberg said no decision has been reached as to whether games will be limited to one stadium in a city.

Los Angeles-Pasadena has submitted bids for both the Rose Bowl and the Coliseum, while Miami has offered both the Orange Bowl and Joe Robbie Stadium. The New Jersey bid contains proposals for both Giants Stadium and Rutgers Stadium, and San Francisco is offering Candlestick Park and Stanford Stadium.

Scheduling conflicts would have to be worked out at four stadiums that also house National League baseball teams. While Candlestick Park and Joe Robbie Stadium have alternate sites in their area, World Cup games in Philadelphia would mean an extended road trip for the Phillies. Denver, which enters the league in 1993, faces a similar problem if the city's new baseball-only stadium isn't ready for the 1994 season.

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Two sites, the Silverdome in Pontiac, Mich., and the New Orleans Superdome, could become the first indoor venues in World Cup history. FIFA mandates that all World Cup games be played on a grass field, but both sites have demonstrated the ability to grow a viable grass field that will stand up to constant pounding.

'Each of the facilities conducted a 22-day grass test,' said Ross Berlin, senior vice president of venues for World Cup USA 1994. 'Different grasses were grown indoors under different conditions. Certain tests were more important than others.

'In conclusion, they give us great confidence that through these tests and with some minor improvements, the grass we observed growing live will withstand the rigors (of the games). In fact, we had ex- professional soccer players demonstrating certain tests on the grass and we're quite confident that the grass will endure under certain light and irrigation and temperature conditions.'

The organizing committee also named Thursday the five finalists to house the World Cup's international broadcast center. Those cities are Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Denver and Phoenix.

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