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Rose Bowl Gets Women’s Final

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It is Aug. 11, 1984, a warm Saturday evening, and 101,799 fans pack the Rose Bowl in Pasadena to see France defeat Brazil, 2-0, for the gold medal in Olympic soccer.

It is a decade later, July 17, 1994, and 94,194 fans wend their way down the Arroyo Seco on a hot Sunday afternoon to see Brazil defeat Italy on penalty kicks to win the World Cup.

It is July 10, 1999, and . . . what?

If things go according to plan, the Rose Bowl again will be sold out, this time for the final of the third FIFA Women’s World Championship.

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Today in New York, eight U.S. stadiums will be announced as venues for the 1999 soccer tournament, with the opening ceremony and game going to Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., and the final coming to Pasadena.

The other venues: Soldier Field in Chicago, Foxboro Stadium near Boston, Jack Kent Cooke Stadium near Washington, Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, Spartan Stadium in San Jose and Civic Stadium in Portland, Ore.

The choice of Pasadena will make the Rose Bowl the first stadium to stage all three title games--the Olympic final, the World Cup final and the Women’s World Cup final.

“I think L.A.'s record speaks for itself,” said Alan Rothenberg, president of the U.S. Soccer Federation. “What we’re going for is the soccer hat trick.

“We had the Olympics and put the soccer final in the Rose Bowl and sold it out. We had the World Cup and put the soccer final there and sold it out. And now, with the Women’s World Cup, we’ve put the final there again.”

The key to the success of USA ’99 will be the performance and exposure of the American team. To that end, the former world champions and reigning Olympic gold medalists will be playing in all but two of the stadiums.

“The U.S. team will open the tournament in New York at Giants Stadium, then they’ll go to Chicago and to Boston,” said Marla Messing, president and chief executive of the Women’s World Cup Organizing Committee. “If they qualify for the quarterfinal round, they play at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium in Washington, D.C.

“If they qualify for the semifinal round, they’ll play at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto. We’re hoping they’ll be able to play on the Fourth of July in Palo Alto to kind of bring back the [U.S. vs Brazil] experience from 1994.”

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The 16-nation, 32-game tournament will be played between June 19 and July 10, 1999, with exact dates subject to approval by FIFA, world soccer’s governing body.

There will be 17 match dates, all but two of them doubleheaders. Only the semifinals, at Stanford and Foxboro stadiums, will be single-game events.

By reaching the semifinals, the U.S. team, which won the world championship in China in 1991 and finished third in Sweden in 1995, would assure itself of a game at the Rose Bowl, either in the final or the third-place game.

“We’re in the process of negotiating a television deal and we’re confident that all 32 games will be on national television,” Messing said. “About 26 or 27 will be live. We’ll probably have three to five [games] on network and the rest on cable.”

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To meet FIFA requirements, the artificial surfaces at Giants Stadium and Civic Stadium will have to be overlaid with grass and Spartan Stadium is being permanently widened.

To help build awareness for the event, which Rothenberg said will be staged as lavishly as World Cup ’94, the U.S. players have been put on full-time, year-round contracts and will be playing frequently after a January training camp in San Diego.

“Between January of ’98 and June of ’99, the U.S. team is going to play about 30 games,” Messing said. “About eight to 12 will be on television. Nike’s going to do a ‘Road to the World Cup Tour’ through the venues [similar to this year’s ‘Victory Tour’ for the Olympic gold medalists]. And we’ll build our marketing around that.”

The United States qualifies automatically as host nation, but defending world champion Norway has to go through a qualifying process already under way.

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Once the 16 finalists are known, a Women’s World Cup ’99 draw will be held at the end of next year to divide the teams into groups.

“There are two things we would like to do in connection with the draw,” Messing said. “We’d like to do some kind of women’s soccer or women’s sports symposium, and we’ve also talked to FIFA about doing the first FIFA women’s world all-star game, probably the USA vs. the Rest of the World in December of ’98. For us, it would be good to bring some of the best players over from the rest of the world and start to introduce them to the American public.”


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