Upper deck at Cooke closed for U.S. game

Cup officials hold line, despite near-sellout

June 29, 1999|By Lowell E. Sunderland | Lowell E. Sunderland,SUN STAFF

The U.S. team could play its biggest game thus far in the Women's World Cup before its smallest crowd in Thursday night's quarterfinal doubleheader at Landover.

Despite saying ticket sales are near Jack Kent Cooke Stadium's "downsized," 41,110 capacity, World Cup officials in Los Angeles decided late yesterday not to open the stadium's spacious upper decks, which can accommodate another 39,000. Downsizing is a marketing term that means officials felt incapable of filling one of the nation's largest stadia.

Richard Finn, the Cup's public relations director, said late yesterday that sales were "approaching 40,000" and that officials "will continue to evaluate the situation and possibility of putting additional seats on the market."

Under normal conditions, a crowd of 40,000 would be remarkable in that outside the context of the 1996 Olympics or current World Cup, even the U.S. team has considered a crowd of 15,000 exceptional -- and that only in the past few years.

But for several reasons, the 40,000 figure stands out, in addition to being half the 2-year-old, 80,110-seat stadium's capacity.

Would-be buyers who called Ticketmaster this weekend were told that only $75 seats remained, with $30 and $50 seats having sold out, despite local newspaper ads indicating otherwise.

"The one in The Sun, unfortunately, was erroneous," Finn said yesterday, adding that $50 and $75 seats remain available, with only the cheapest seats, at $30, sold out. All those seats are in the stadium's field and middle levels.

Additionally, the favored U.S. team sold out its first two venues, drawing a total of 143,872 and dwarfing total attendance for the entire 1995 tournament in Sweden. Those games and the team's third in group play against comparatively weak opponents carried little threat of elimination. The smallest of the three crowds was 50,484 Sunday in Foxboro, Mass., which is still almost 10,000 more than would see the upcoming games at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium under the present arrangement.

Thursday night's doubleheader -- U.S.-Germany at 7 p.m. followed by Brazil-Nigeria -- is knockout play featuring four of the 16-team tournament's eight surviving teams. Another quarterfinal doubleheader is being played in San Jose, Calif., tomorrow night.

Group play guaranteed each team three games, regardless of outcome, and ties counted. But in knockout play, overtime and, if needed, penalty kicks will decide tie games. The winner advances toward the quadrennial tournament's title game July 10 in the Rose Bowl; the loser goes home.

Women's Cup

Quarterfinals

Thursday's games in Landover

U.S. vs. Germany, 7 p.m.

Brazil vs. Nigeria, 9: 30 p.m.

U.S. game attendance

The crowds for the first three Women's World Cup doubleheaders that included the U.S. team:

Date Site U.S. opponent Attendance

June 19 Giants Stadium*, N.J. Denmark 78,792**

June 24 Soldier Field*, Chicago Nigeria 65,080

June 27 Foxboro Stadium, Mass. North Korea 50,484

*-Sellout; **-U.S. record for women's sports event.

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