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World Cup play coming to RFK

D.C. among host cities for womenís soccer championship matches

(Published June 30, 2003)

By GINA PONCE

Staff Writer

Soccer will be coming to the District in a different way Sept. 21 as Robert F. Kennedy Stadium hosts the opening ceremonies and first U.S. National team game of the Federation Internationale de Football Association Womenís World Cup USA 2003.

U.S. Soccer President S. Robert Contiguglia announced the decision to make the District a site for the 2003 Womenís World Cup games, along with the rest of the tournament schedule, at a press conference held at RFK Stadium on June 16.

Bobby Goldwater, executive director of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, said a lot went into this decision before it was actually made. He said the commission initiated contact with the U.S. Soccer Federation and asked that the District be considered as the site for the opening ceremonies.

"With RFK having such great history in soccer, we thought it would be a great fit to have this in the nationís capital," Goldwater said.

He said the U.S. Soccer Federation was looking for the best scheduling they could find for the tournament. In addition to the ceremonies and game opener, RFK Stadium will also host two doubleheader dates on Sept. 24 and 27.

"Having the World Cup in Washington for three doubleheader dates is terrific, and having the opening ceremonies and first U.S. National team game is an added bonus," Goldwater said. "Weíre very, very pleased with the ruling."

Esten Perez, director of communications for the Washington Freedom, said that Major League Soccer and the Womenís United Soccer Association also had a hand in bringing the World Cup to the District by assisting the U.S. Soccer Federation in making a bid to FIFA. The Freedom and D.C. United, the cityís professional menís soccer franchise, both call RFK Stadium their home turf.

Goldwater referred to the District as the "nationís capital of soccer." RFK Stadium has been the host of many soccer events over the years, including the Menís World Cup in 1994, the first ever Womenís United Soccer Association game in 2001, the championship games for Major League Soccer in 2002, as well as many international games. The stadium will host the Barcelona vs. AC Milan game on July 30.

There are 13 teams that have qualified so far to be in the World Cup tournament, including Brazil, Argentina, Canada, the United States and Australia. The final U.S. team roster has not yet been decided.

"Soccer is the No. 1 sport at RFK Stadium," Goldwater said. "The best soccer fans in the country are right here in the Washington area."

Goldwater called the selection of RFK Stadium for the Womenís World Cup events "another demonstration that D.C. is a major event city."

Copyright 2003, The Common Denominator