May 27, 2010

Our View: Bring World Cup back to Rose Bowl

Pasadena Star News
Thursday, May 27, 2010

Talking about the most popular sporting event ever, soccer's World Cup, is like talking about Melville's white whale - if you know everything there is to know about the whale (zoology, oceanography, commerce, navigation, to start), you know everything there is to know about everything.

For most every other nation in the world, their version of football is everything: sport, national pride, politics, racial identity, culture.

We could pretend that, in the years since the United States and the San Gabriel Valley first hosted our own World Cups - 1994 for men; 1999 for women - we have fully come into that universe where football is life, and life football, and the twain are forever intertwined.

But that would not be true. In those 16 years, yes, AYSO participation by America's children has grown even more - it was an oddity to even know how to play soccer, and know it's a sporting rite of passage for kids. Millions who never take part in any other sport in uniform - not baseball, not American football, not basketball, our great home-grown pastimes - play soccer every Saturday from age 5 until early adolescence.

Hundreds of thousands more - both boys and girls - continue to play on high school teams. And many go on to share the world-wide fascination with the cult professional teams - with Chivas, with Manchester United, with Futbol Club Barcelona - and the star players such as David Beckham, bigger names on every continent and through every social strata than any movie star could imagine.

Talking of Beckham, he even brought his road show to Southern California - sort of. His late-years professional stint with the Los Angeles Galaxy has not exactly been the kind of which sporting careers are made.

So, no, futbol has still yet to be fully woven into American life. Should America and the Rose Bowl, then, still be leading contenders to host the 2018 or 2022 World Cup? You bet your team-autographed Chelsea F.C. jersey we should be.

Both the men's and women's Cup finals in Pasadena were tremendous successes on all fronts. The Rose Bowl is the perfect kind of stadium in which to hold such an historic event. First off, it's huge, and the more fans, the merrier. Second, it's already hallowed ground. Third and most importantly, its staff knows how to handle any major event that could possibly come its way - from Super Bowls to U2 concerts.

The greatest game in women's World Cup history was played there - the China-U.S. final, complete with Brandi Chastain's winning penalty kick and sports bra moment flashed around the globe. Just up the street from the bowl, Old Pasadena turned out to be more than capable of handling the celebration of even a Brazil victory in the world's greatest sporting event. Unlike many other competing countries - South Africa this time, Brazil the next - massive infrastructure would not need to be constructed around the nation for the U.S. to return as hosts. It's already here, in (Yank-style) football stadiums throughout the country.

Soccer will be even more a part of American lives by the time we get to host another championship. We'd love to host the World Cup again - and we should, not because we deserve to, but because we're good at it.