Denny Medley-US PRESSWIRE
I think that the US Men's National Team should play a Hex game at Dick's Sporting Goods Park, not only because it is a nice home field advantage sort of stadium, but to help grow the national support in Colorado.
A piece was written on MLSsoccer.com the other day about why Kansas City should become something of a 'hub' for the US Men's National Team following the rockin' display that was put on at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park against Guatemala. Certainly, it was a fantastic game by the players, the Tifo creators, the fans and just about everyone involved.
However, I don't think that designating any stadium to be the Estadio Azteca of America is the right thing to do.
The United States is far too large a country and has far too many high-class stadiums, albeit few as high-class as LIVESTRONG, to designate one stadium as the home base. One such stadium is Dick's Sporting Goods Park. It might not be on the level that LSP is, but it's always been considered one of the better stadiums in Major League Soccer. My biggest gripe with immediately handing half of the USA's home games to LIVESTRONG would be that it doesn't give much of a chance for some other fine stadiums to get their shot in the limelight as possible future regular venues.
Dick's has not hosted a USMNT game since way back in November of 2008, when Guatemala showed up and got toasted 2-0 by the Yanks. The crowd that day was middling, though the US support still outshone the few Guatemalans who showed up. This is four years later, following a wonderful 2010 World Cup that sparked interest in the game throughout the country. Around here, it's four years that have seen the game grow in the state of Colorado thanks to a 2010 MLS Cup victory for the home team. Steadily rising attendances and season ticket numbers have followed.
Personally, I think that DSGP should be in consideration for one of the games that the US will play in the Hex, starting in February. I brought that up on Thursday in the thread for discussion on Stars & Stripes FC, and Ryan Rosenblatt threw out a couple of valid points against it. Namely, the fact that the season ticket holders aren't high for the Rapids.
Why do season ticket holder numbers matter? Simple, they get first dibs on tickets that are made available and the assumption is that most STH will also be fans of the United States and not whatever other team they play. However, Columbus is likely going to get the game against Mexico in the Hex and hosted the game against Jamaica in qualifiers, and their season ticket numbers aren't exactly stellar. Last I heard, the Crew had about 25% of Crew Stadium's seats filled with STH. Colorado has somewhere around 4000, which is about 1000 fewer than Columbus.
That's about 22% of the seats filled, not too far behind and growing all the time. Reportedly, the Rapids have doubled their season ticket numbers since 2010 and the renewal rates are up as well. So why does Crew Stadium get the games when the Dick doesn't? It probably comes down to history at that point. Crew Stadium has had its fair share of games for the US men over the years, having been built in 1999. DSGP has only been around since 2007, got a chance to host a qualifier in 2008, didn't fill the joint up and then turned tail.
I don't find that to be fair, especially considering the way that DSGP was overloaded for the USWNT when they played Australia, and in fact the way they pack the place for any big name game (Galaxy matches, anyone?).
Mexico shouldn't come here, of course. The stadium would be overloaded with green jerseys just like that 'Home game' in the latest Gold Cup Final. But bringing a team like Jamaica into the fray, where there wouldn't be as much of a traveling fanbase, would be a solid idea. Training the USMNT at altitude for a week or two prior to the game would give them the edge in that regard, and if the game was in February we could see snow.
Instead of defaulting to Kansas City for all future games, I would much prefer to see the team go around to MLS stadia that they have rarely tried before. They know they can get a fortress at Livestrong, they can expect a sellout at Rio Tinto and they have history at Crew Stadium. We know they prefer to play on grass, so the pacific northwest is probably out unless the Sounders pull the hilarious grass rug over turf stunt again.
That leaves stadiums like DSGP, FC Dallas Stadium, BBVA Compass Stadium and Toyota Park out in the cold. This country is large enough to spread the love and even if Dick's doesn't get a Hex match this time around, I would be very disappointed if they were left out in the cold for the foreseeable future simply because the US is scared that they won't get 18000 all-US fans. The quickest way to grow national support in Colorado, after all, would be to show the fans that they can watch their national team first hand.