The group preparing America's bids for the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups has made preliminary contact with Auburn officials about playing host to games. Jordan-Hare Stadium is one of 70 stadia being considered.Of course, that flutter didn't last more than a second or two. For starters, I think we all know we'd be running the risk of the following reaction from the, ahem, "new" soccer fans in the crowd:
But more importantly, Auburn (or rather Columbus Ga., the city listed as the affiliated "metro market" (!) for Jordan-Hare) is, um, how do I put this ... let's go with "going to be a host city for the World Cup the day pigs fly out of a monkey's butt." (Or something.) In 1994, the smallest city selected to host was Boston. I know, I know, Athens hosted the Olympic finals in '96, but its proximity to the ATL was far and away the biggest draw for organizers at the time--in fact, they were so desperate not to stick the rest of the tournament in college towns they moved games as far away as D.C. and Miami. Even putting aside questions of whether the field at J-Hare could accommodate international soccer (probably, I think, but whether Auburn could get it wide enough is up for debate ... remember, they had to uproot the hedges in Sanford), Auburn (and/or Columbus) is just not a feasible option for hosting the kind of crowd crush that comes with being a World Cup city.
Then again, neither is Fayetteville, or Iowa City, or even Norman or South Bend or *cough* Tuscaloosa. So why does U.S. Soccer's list of potential sites--which features every stadium in the SEC save for the Mississippi schools and Vandy--include all of these cities and their respective college-affiliated stadiums? Here, I'll let Dan Loney, world's greatest soccer blogger, explain:
There's a serious reason that (Iowa's) Kinnick, as well as several dozen clearly hilarious sites, are on this list. Two, actually. One - cheap publicity in non-traditional soccer markets. The absolute ideal is for these facilities to say, "There's interest for soccer here? And the national team draws fans in Nashville and Birmingham and Hartford? And we're stuck here with only six or seven big dates a year? Hm..." and make a bid for a garbage friendly ...So there you go. Truly, truly, the World Cup on the Plains would be the awesomest thing in the history of awesome, but if there's anyone out there whose hopes were up ... well, you should probably let them down again. Gently.
The other ... not-so-subtle subtext here is "Notice how Brazil and South Africa are still worrying about facilities? Not an issue here." ... They padded it out with places like Kinnick Stadium (no lights to speak of) and Strawberry Canyon in Berkeley (no parking to speak of), but how good is the 70th best stadium in England, huh?