Los Angeles Soccer: Rose Bowl
Our countdown of 2010's top 10 soccer stories and newsmakers -- from a Southern California slant -- continues.
- Stories/No. 4: Dead dreams of 2022
The best-attended, most lucrative World Cup occurred 16½ years ago in a country that didn't know nor care about international soccer. Well, at least not as much as nearly everywhere else in the world.
The 1994 tournament was a starting point of sorts for everything American soccer fans today take for granted: Games from around the world on TV at all hours, summer treks to these parts by the biggest clubs in the world, a capable and competitive national team, an army of likeminded fanatics (and millions more who follow the sport casually).
The Rose Bowl, of course, figured prominently in '94 (a record 94,194 were on hand to watch Brazil beat Italy on penalties in the final), and again in 1999, when the Women's World Cup caused a sensation around America (and 90,185 squeezed into the venerable stadium to watch the U.S. beat China on penalties in the final).
Oh, how we were looking forward to bringing the world back to L.A. -- to all of America -- again in 2022. And it appeared a sure thing after U.S. Soccer bid to stage the tournament again (initially, the bid was for 2018 or 2022), with a proposal that featured the world's best stadiums (Cowboys Stadium outside Dallas, New Meadowlands Stadium in New Jersey), the most complete infrastructure and support from dignitaries from nearly ever walk of life.
The Rose Bowl, again, was part of the proposal, but one of the proposed new NFL stadiums, in downtown L.A. or out in Walnut, appeared the likely home for games in 2022 -- and possibly the final.
But FIFA runs on different ideas than we do, and its executive committee has members from every continent, and not all of them necessarily impressed by American know-how. Money talks and backroom politics dictate the walk, and so by the time Dec. 2 -- the date of the vote at FIFA's Zurich headquarters -- rolled around, the whispers had Qatar, a tiny Middle East nation with tons of cash (but no soccer heritage to speak of) the likely choice.
- Stories/No. 9: Real Madrid's visit
The gap between Major League Soccer's best and the world's finest clubs has rarely been more aptly illustrated than at the Rose Bowl last Aug. 7.
The Galaxy, en route to the Supporters' Shield (as MLS's regular-season champion), stood toe to toe with mighty Real Madrid through 45 minutes, taking a two-goal lead to the locker room at halftime.
Real Madrid defender Marcelo, right, clashes with Galaxy forward Mike Magee during their friendly at the Rose Bowl on Aug. 7.
Then Jose Mourinho, the “Special One,” unleashed his A side, bringing on World Cup stars Cristiano Ronaldo, Gonzalo Higuain, Xabi Alonso and Iker Casillas. Real Madrid, demonstrating a substantial superiority in skill, quickness of thought and ball movement, destroyed L.A. over the final 45 minutes, rallying for a 3-2 victory -- with Argentine forward Higuain scoring two of the goals.
The encounter delighted a crowd of 89,134 -- the second-largest crowd to watch a soccer game in Southern California this year, just off the 90,526 count for Mexico's Rose Bowl game against New Zealand on March 3. And it delighted the Galaxy, who considered it an honor to be on the same field with one of the globe's greatest clubs.
We knew we were getting the final. Turns out only one other date at next summer's Gold Cup will be played in Southern California.
CONCACAF's urge to spread its nations championship to many sites has left Angelenos just two viewing options: A June 6 opener at Home Depot Center -- it'll be a doubleheader -- and the June 25 title game at the Rose Bowl.
No clue on who will be playing -- seven of 12 qualifiers have been determined and the draw will be held in early February -- but odds are it will be the U.S. and Mexico in the championship encounter.
The U.S. beat Mexico, 2-1, in the 2007 final in Chicago, and Mexico routed the U.S., 5-0, in the 2009 title game in East Rutherford, N.J.
Quarterfinals will be played in East Rutherford and Washington and semifinals in Houston. In all, 13 venues will stage games.
This will be the ninth time in 11 tournaments since the current format was adopted in 1991 that games will be played in Southern California. Five of the first six finals were played at the Rose Bowl or Coliseum, but next year's will be the first since 2002, when the U.S. beat Costa Rica at the Rose Bowl.
Home Depot Center has been the only So Cal venue in the past three competitions.
The U.S., Mexico and Canada automatically are entered into the tournament, and Jamaica, Cuba, Grenada and Guadeloupe qualified from the Caribbean Championship. Five Central American nations will emerge from the Jan. 14-23 Copa Centroamericana in Panama.