Gillette Stadium never has been
Yesterday, several members of the SNE staff received an email from Mike Singleton, the Associate Executive Director of Mass. Youth Soccer, imploring us to sign an online petition telling FIFA that we support and very much want either the 2018 or 2022 World Cup to come to Boston by entering our email address and zip code.
It is exactly the kind of unscientific poll (not to mention mailing list generator) that, back in the 1990s, helped the Boston area in bids to secure the 1994 World Cup, the 1999 Women's World Cup, and a franchise in a then yet-to-be-launched Major League Soccer.
Given that all of those bids ultimately proved successful, it is perhaps reasonable to assume that Boston area soccer fans are pretty good at petitions.
Well, that seems to no longer be the case.
Singleton's email went on to list, in order, the 18 cities that are in contention for the ultimate soccer honor, and Boston is currently sitting at number 16 with a mere 7,650 votes behind such soccer hotbeds as Tampa Bay in eighth place, San Diego in twelfth and Nashville in fifteenth.
Is this a shock to soccer lovers in the area?
Perhaps not to anyone who has been following the Revs' attendance figures over the last several years. New England ranked twelfth in attendance among the 15 MLS teams that played in 2009 with an average of 12,427 per game.
Higher profile games, of course, have drawn much better, including last summer's Milan Derby, which brought in 42,531. Even so, that figure represents only about 63% of Gillette Stadium's capacity, and it begs the question: What has gone wrong with the soccer market in New England over the last few years?
Perhaps it's a simple matter of over saturation. There has, after all, been a lot of soccer played in this area over the last decade-and-a-half, with professional men's and women's teams, four professional championship games, numerous US national team appearances and a plethora of international friendlies.
Or maybe it's the new Gillette Stadium that has never been an ideal soccer venue and seems to suck all the atmosphere out of even fairly large crowds, thus greatly diminishing the soccer fan experience.
Other cities on the list suggest that several newer markets have now overtaken us as the premier soccer regions in the nation. Seattle's well-documented dose of soccer fever continues and has that area leading the charge with 26,590 votes. Philadelphia is currently in second place with 18,634.
Truth is, of course, that none of these numbers will ultimately have much bearing on where the 2018 or 2022 World Cups will be played. Word is that Europe (probably England) will almost certainly be awarded the 2018 tournament, leaving the USA, Australia, Japan, Qatar and Indonesia to slug it out for 2022.
If I were a betting man, I'd place a wager on Australia, but that's just a hunch I have. I'd also bet that very few people will be talking about Boston as one of the USA's premier soccer markets anytime soon, which is frankly a bit of a shame.
Click here to visit the Go USA Bid blog for the continuosuly updating list.
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