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Originally published Friday, April 10, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Qwest Field could play host to a World Cup match

Qwest Field will be considered as a venue for World Cup matches, now that a committee is putting together a bid to bring the major world soccer tournament to the U.S.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Seattle and Qwest Field will get consideration as a site and venue for World Cup matches, a leading official involved in the U.S. bid for the 2018 or 2022 World Cup said Thursday.

Sunil Gulati, president of the U.S. Soccer Federation, said Qwest Field's artificial surface shouldn't hinder its chances to be one of perhaps nine to 12 stadiums — out of 70 in 50 U.S. markets — that will be on the final list when the USA Bid Committee submits it next year.

"We have a number of venues with artificial surfaces," Gulati said in a conference call. "I'm 100 percent sure one will be on the final list. The artificial surface does not preclude us from playing in Seattle."

The USA Bid Committee mailed letters last week to public officials and stadium operators in metropolitan markets across the nation in a first step toward preparing a formal bid to play host to the World Cup, the pinnacle of international soccer competition, in 2018 or 2022. Qwest Field and Husky Stadium were two of the 70 stadiums named, yet Qwest, with its history of hosting international soccer friendlies before big crowds and the success of Sounders FC both on the field and in attendance figures, stands out as the most viable in this market.

"The fans here, over the years, have proven that this is a knowledgeable and passionate soccer market," Sounders FC general manager Adrian Hanauer said. "The stadium is phenomenal, and I have no reason to believe that this wouldn't be one of the top venues for a World Cup in the United States."

Gulati said Seattle's history of support for the sport, Qwest Field as a world-class facility, strong support for soccer from civic leaders and the Sounders FC ownership group make Seattle a good candidate.

The stadium's capacity won't affect its chances, as 67,000 seats are more than other venues around the world where World Cup games have been played. Only the tournament opener and the championship game must be played in a stadium that holds a minimum of 80,000, according to guidelines from FIFA, soccer's world governing body.

The U.S. bid figures to be a strong one, with so many stadiums that meet FIFA requirements.

"Even before our [Sounders FC] success here, Seattle was already on the radar as a great soccer market and Qwest as a great soccer stadium," Hanauer said.

The next two World Cups are next year in South Africa and in 2014 in Brazil.

Notes

• Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid indicated Thursday that F Fredy Montero, who missed last week's game, and M Freddie Ljungberg, who replaced Montero at forward, will be in the starting lineup Saturday when Seattle hosts the Kansas City Wizards. Schmid wouldn't say who will come out of the starting 11, but it figures to be a midfielder.

• The first five Sounders FC home games have been or will be sold out after two more games, San Jose on April 25 and the Los Angeles Galaxy on May 10, were declared sellouts Thursday.

José Miguel Romero: 206-464-2409 or jromero@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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