NEW YORK -- The 1994 World Cup, with 52 games, 3.6 million spectators expected and a television audience numbering in the billions, is billed as the planet's biggest sporting event.
It may also be the most expensive to attend.
Yesterday, 500 days before the opening game kickoff, organizers of the first made-in-America soccer championship revealed a ticket policy that approaches sticker shock.
Consider this: a family of four attending four, first-round games and a round-of-16 match at Washington's RFK Stadium will have to pay $560.
And that's for the seats behind the goals.
Despite the high price of admission, tournament organizers are predicting a sellout for the tournament, spread across nine U.S. stadiums, June 17-July 17, 1994.
"We are confident, and we trust our American friends when they say that we will sell all of these tickets," said Joseph S. Blatter, general secretary of FIFA, soccer world organizing body.
Single-game ticket prices range from $25 in the first round to $475 for the premier seats to the July 17 final at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.
The least expensive ticket for the World Cup final is $180, or $5 more than fans paid to attend this year's Super Bowl.
"We have 600,000 tickets [available to Americans] for $25, which puts them in the realm of working-class families and young families," said Alan Rothenberg, chairman and chief executive officer of World Cup USA.
But for the most part, the World Cup is a big-bucks event for the wealthiest soccer aficionados.
"For those people with princely desires and princely sums, we have princely prices," Rothenberg said.
The bulk of the two million tickets available to the American public are expected to be purchased in three series plans.
Members of what is called "the United States soccer family," are already first in line for tickets through a "private sale" that began via mail earlier this week and ends March 31.
U.S. Soccer Federation-affiliated coaches, players and officials can purchase up to 10 tickets each in stadium packages with discounts ranging from 10 to 20 percent.
Sales to the American general public will begin in June via mail and telephone order. Any remaining individual tickets for the early rounds will be sold early next year.
Tickets to the quarterfinals, semifinals, third-place game, and the final will be sold in the fall.
With an average price of $58, ticket sales are expected to generate gross revenues approaching $208 million.
"We have to pay all the bills to put on the World Cup, and we want to leave a surplus of $25 million to aid soccer development in the U.S.," Rothenberg said.
The local organizers also will have to give FIFA more than $100 million for staging the tournament.
The top series tickets for matches June 19, 20, 28, 29 and July 2 at RFK Stadium will cost $355 each. Mid-priced series tickets will cost $245, with the cheapest series tickets selling for $140. But "U.S. soccer family" members will, for a limited time, be able to purchase the tickets for $275, $205 and $127.50.
If individual tickets remain at RFK, they will be available for $75, $50 and $30 for the first game, $65, $45 and $25 for all other first-round games, and $85, $60 and $35 for the round of 16.
ABC and ESPN will provide monthlong coverage.
'94 World Cup tickets
February-March, 1993: Private sale to members of the U.S. Soccer Federation-affiliated community. Stadium series packages only. Mail and telephone orders only.
June 1993: Public sale. Stadium series packages only. Mail and telephone orders only. To receive a sales brochure call: (310) 277-9494.
Fall 1993: Later-round games public sale via computerized "equal access" distribution system.
February 1994-June 1994: Individual game sale (if available). Mail, telephone order, ticket outlets.
RFK Stadium series
(June 19, 20, 28, 29 and July 2)
Category 1: $355 regular price, $275 for "U.S. Soccer family" members.
Category 2: $245 regular price, $205 for "U.S. Soccer family" members.
Category 3: $140 regular price, $127.50 for "U.S. Soccer family" members.
* $7 processing and handling fee per package ordered.
* Individual tickets, if available, will cost $75, $50 and $30 for June 19, $65, $45 and $25 for June 20-28-29 and $85, $60 and $35 for July 4. Prices subject to handling fee.