After talking for weeks about how it was going to organize the fourth FIFA Women’s World Cup so that it moved, chronologically, from east to west across the United States, U.S. Soccer backpedaled Monday.
The 16-nation, 32-game world-championship tournament, which runs from Sept. 20 to Oct. 12, will have more West Coast matches than originally planned, including early round competition.
The Home Depot Center in Carson, for instance, will be the site not only of the championship final and third-place game, but also of two first-round doubleheaders.
In a change from the previous Women’s World Cup, the third-place match and final will be played on different days and not as a doubleheader as in 1999, when the Rose Bowl played host to both games on the same day.
In addition, PGE Park in Portland, Ore., will be the venue not only for both semifinals but also for a first-round doubleheader and a quarterfinal doubleheader.
The thinking behind the scheduling was greater nationwide impact.
In an odd but not unprecedented quirk, the opening ceremony and first United States game will take place on Sept. 21 at RFK Stadium in Washington, the day after first-round matches have been played in Philadelphia and Columbus, Ohio.
The defending world champion U.S. team will play at all six venues if it reaches the final four. After opening at RFK Stadium, Coach April Heinrichs’ squad will move to Lincoln Field in Philadelphia and then to Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.
If the Americans advance, as expected, they will play their quarterfinal match at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass., and their semifinal match at PGE Park in Portland, Ore., before reaching the Los Angeles area.
Heinrichs said Monday that she had no problem with all the travel the schedule entails.
“Every city is our home city,” she said. “I’m thrilled to be traveling. It makes it a national event for everybody.”
So far, 13 teams have qualified for the tournament: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Ghana, Nigeria, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the U.S.
Asian qualifying will end Sunday, with two teams from among Japan, North Korea and South Korea qualifying for the World Cup and the third going into a playoff against Mexico for the 16th and final berth.
The two Koreas played to a 2-2 tie in Bangkok, Thailand, on Monday, and both advanced to the semifinals of the Asian Women’s Championship, which is serving as the qualifying tournament for the world championships.
North Korea will play Japan in one semifinal Thursday, and China, which has qualified automatically for the Women’s World Cup, will play South Korea in the other.
The draw for the Women’s World Cup will be held after Mexico’s home-and-home playoff with an Asian opponent, probably in mid-July, according to Dan Flynn, U.S. Soccer’s secretary general.
The U.S. is seeded as the top team in Group A, and the three other seeded teams are almost certain to be China, the 1999 runner-up; Norway, the 1995 world champion and 2000 Olympic gold-medal winner; and Germany, the European champion.
Each will be placed at the head of a group, but it is difficult to predict which team will head Group D at Carson.
Tournament organizers might like to see one of the Koreas playing in the Los Angeles area, because of the tremendous support Korean fans showed during the 2002 World Cup. That would rule out China’s being based locally, because teams from the same confederation are separated in the first round, and would mean either Germany or Norway playing in Carson.
Similarly, if Mexico qualified for the tournament, it also would be a logical team to locate in the Los Angeles area. Of course, the draw is supposed to be blind, which means any conjecture at this point is just that, conjecture.
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*--* Women’s World Cup Full Match Schedule M# Date Teams Location GROUP A 1 Sept. 21 U.S. (A1) vs. A2 RFK Stadium (Washington) 2 Sept. 20 A3 vs. A4 Lincoln Financial Field (Philadelphia) 9 Sept. 25 U.S. (A1) vs. A3 Lincoln Financial Field (Philadelphia) 10 Sept. 25 A2 vs. A4 Lincoln Financial Field (Philadelphia) 17 Sept. 28 A4 vs. U.S. (A1) Crew Stadium (Columbus, Ohio) 18 Sept. 28 A2 vs. A3 Crew Stadium (Columbus, Ohio) GROUP B 3 Sept. 20 B1 vs. B2 Lincoln Financial Field (Philadelphia) 4 Sept. 21 B3 vs. B4 RFK Stadium (Washington) 11 Sept. 24 B1 vs. B3 RFK Stadium (Washington) 12 Sept. 24 B2 vs. B4 RFK Stadium (Washington) 19 Sept. 27 B4 vs. B1 Gillette Stadium (Foxboro, Mass.) 20 Sept. 27 B2 vs. B3 RFK Stadium (Washington) GROUP C 5 Sept. 20 C1 vs. A2 Crew Stadium (Columbus, Ohio) 6 Sept. 20 C3 vs. C4 Crew Stadium (Columbus, Ohio) 13 Sept. 24 C1 vs. C3 Crew Stadium (Columbus, Ohio) 14 Sept. 24 C2 vs. C4 Crew Stadium (Columbus, Ohio) 21 Sept. 27 C4 vs. C1 RFK Stadium (Washington) 22 Sept. 27 C2 vs. C3 Gillette Stadium (Foxboro, Mass.) GROUP D 7 Sept. 21 D1 vs. D2 Home Depot Center (Carson) 8 Sept. 21 D3 vs. D4 Home Depot Center (Carson) 15 Sept. 25 D1 vs. D3 Home Depot Center (Carson) 16 Sept. 25 D2 vs. D4 Home Depot Center (Carson) 23 Sept. 28 D4 vs. D1 PGE Park (Portland, Ore.) 24 Sept. 28 D2 vs. D3 PGE Park (Portland, Ore.) QUARTERFINALS 25 Oct. 1 1st A vs. 2nd B Gillette Stadium (Foxboro, Mass.) 26 Oct. 1 1st B vs. 2nd A Gillette Stadium (Foxboro, Mass.) 27 Oct. 2 1st C vs. 2nd D PGE Park (Portland, Ore.) 28 Oct. 2 1st D vs. 2nd C PGE Park (Portland, Ore.) SEMIFINALS 29 Oct. 5 W25 vs. W27 PGE Park (Portland, Ore.) 30 Oct. 5 W26 vs. W28 PGE Park (Portland, Ore.) THIRD-PLACE GAME 31 Oct. 11 L29 vs. L30 Home Depot Center (Carson) FINAL 32 Oct. 12 W29 vs. W30 Home Depot Center (Carson) Note: M# = match number
WOMEN’S WORLD CUP
* When: Sept. 20-Oct. 12.
* First U.S. game: Sept. 21 at RFK Stadium, Washington.
* Championship: Oct. 12 at Home Depot Center, Carson.