June 13, 2013
WORLD CUP WARM-UPS?
Teams headed to Brazil could train and play in tri-state area next year
By Michael Lewis
BRONX -- The World Cup will be played in South America next year, but several of the participating countries could set up base in the United States or in the tri-state area while on their way to Brazil.
If he has his way, Relevent Sports CEO Charlie Stillitano will have at least one team training and playing in either New York or New Jersey.
"It's something that we're looking at doing," Stillitano said after Tuesday's international friendly between Spain and Ireland at Yankee Stadium. "We've already talked and we can't say who because we're under some confidentially, but we've already talked to several federations about hosting them here. And we'll see what happens.
"First they have to qualify and then we can hopefully set up a nice training camp for them."
That team would play a World Cup warm-up match in the area, and there are three stadiums that could host a game.
"There is plenty of opportunity, depending on who the team is and anywhere between Met Life, Yankee Stadium or Red Bull Arena could be an option, depending on the team and the availability of the stadia," Stillitano said.
Relevent Sports brought Ireland and Spain to the United States for the encounter.
Assuming Spain qualifies, it could return. Given the huge Italian population in the region, Italy, for example, would be a perfect candidate. The Italians played two group matches and a semifinal game at Giants Stadium during , the 1994 World Cup.
Since New York City, heck the entire area, is such a huge cosmopolitan area that many countries could wind up here.
Spain's 2-0 international friendly win over Ireland on Tuesday night attracted 39,368 fans, the eighth largest soccer attendance in a facility called Yankee Stadium. It was several hundred less than Manchester City's 5-3 triumph over Chelsea on May 25. About a half hour prior to kickoff, it looked like the crowd would be 15,000 or so and that had Stillitano worried for a while.
"I thought the crowd was great," he said. "It's funny it seems that if you announce eight o'clock, they come at nine. If you announce four, they come at five."
Stillitano then chuckled.
"I'm joking, but I've half serious," he said. "I guess it might have been the traffic or people ... It seems like it was a real large walk-up. It seemed to be about 40,000 or a little bit more in the building itself. I heard they had announced around 39,000 paid. That was terrific. It was a great testament. You see a great team like Spain maybe the greatest team ever and a like like Ireland with all heart and soul. they put on a good show. I really enjoyed it.
"I was a little bit nervous, but I was really happy. Everyone said the lines were enormous to get in. It was a good sign. When you've got his quality here in New York, everyone realized that they came out to support it. It was nice."