England has Wembley Stadium, Mexico has the Azteca, Argentina has El Monumental, France has Stade de France and the United States has … no dedicated venue for the national soccer team.
We’re not in poor company: Soccer powerhouses Spain, Brazil, Germany and Italy don’t have one either.
But isn’t it time for the U.S. to anchor the national side to one prestigious arena?
Well, that depends on who you ask.
“Quite simply, no,” said former England international and Fox Sports soccer analyst, Warren Barton. “I just think logistically, it won’t work.”
Barton believes people should have the same chance to watch the national team play, no matter where they live. He also recalls how Wembley was being rebuilt when he played for England, and how the “whole community” was touched when the Three Lions showed up for games throughout the country.
“Fans love coming from their own area, their own city, to support it,” he said. “I think the players enjoy that too. I’m very much for spreading the gospel, spreading the word.”
Then there’s Phil Schoen—who, as the lead play-by-play announcer for beIN Sports, is one of the most recognized voices in U.S. soccer. In principal Schoen likes the idea of a national stadium, but with some reservations.
“The key is where do you go to get the home-field advantage? Where do you go to get that overwhelming atmosphere, where the 12th man actually does play a role?” he told Fox News Latino.
But even Schoen feels that the time’s not yet right for a national arena.
“While it’s maybe a great idea, it’s probably one, at least at this point, that isn’t practical and maybe has more negatives than positives,” he said.
I say let’s split the difference. We should continue having the national team travel around the U.S. when playing friendlies or run-of-the mill games. But when it really counts, we should play at the stadiums where the euphemistic “12th man” makes himself heard.
Some of the loudest and most enthusiastic fans in U.S. soccer follow the Seattle Sounders FC, whose Century Link Park seats 40,000. No less enthusiastic are the fans of the Portland Timbers, who make Providence Park roar despite its capacity of 22,000.
And in recent years, the U.S. team has taken to playing important World Cup qualifiers in Columbus, Ohio, or up in the Rockies—places like Sandy, Utah, or Commerce City, Colorado, where they grabbed a notorious win against Costa Rica as the wind and the snow rendered the Central American side frozen to the spot.
The idea being in part to ignore areas with large Latin populations like Los Angeles, New York City, Washington, D.C. and Texas, and in doing so temper the support for teams like Mexico, Honduras and El Salvador.
Any of those stadiums would make great national arenas for the big games.
But don’t take my word for it. U.S. Soccer has a chance to gauge the best fan-base atmosphere for the U.S. national team this summer when the United States hosts the Gold Cup of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF).
The data could drive the debate as to whether—and where—the U.S. should consider creating a single national stadium.
The U.S. plays its first round of Gold Cup games at the 20,000-seat home of FC Dallas, the 18,000-seat home of Sporting Kansas City, and Gillette stadium in Massachusetts which has a little fewer than 69,000 seats.
Quarterfinal, semifinal and final matches—should Team USA get that far—will be played in Baltimore, New Jersey and Philadelphia, all of which have stadiums with capacities of 69,000 and more.
And while neither Seattle or Portland are hosting games this summer, it will be interesting to take stock of the fans intensity as the U.S. looks for its sixth Gold Cup trophy.
Video of the week
Another goal celebration led to tears this week, as the Macedonian under-16 squad gave Gibraltar—only recently able to field its own FIFA-approved teams—a present at their UEFA Development Tournament match last week.
From the wires
Javier Morales scored his ninth goal in 15 career meetings with San Jose and Real Salt Lake beat the Earthquakes 1-0 on Sunday.
Real Salt Lake (2-0-2) and the New York Red Bulls (2-0-1) are the only MLS clubs without a loss this season.
Morales' free kick in the 44th minute deflected off the wall, landed back at his feet and he found an opening for his second goal of the season.
San Jose's Sanna Nyassi fed Adam Jahn inside the 6-yard box, but Jahn's tricky backheel attempt went wide. Jahn rolled a breakaway chance in the 54th minute directly to RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
Shaun Francis went to the San Jose (2-3-0) locker room in the 38th minute after a head-to-head collision with RSL's Jordan Allen.
U.S. men's national team coach Jürgen Klinsmann and Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck were in attendance at the new Avaya Stadium.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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