San Diego makes host cities list if U.S. gets World Cup matches


San Diego was chosen as one of 18 cities nationwide where FIFA World Cup matches would be played, should the United States be selected to host the soccer tournament in 2018 or 2022, it was announced Tuesday.

The other host cities are Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Seattle, Tampa and Washington, D.C., according to the USA Bid Committee, the organization created to try and lure the tournament to the U.S.

Mayor Jerry Sanders said the announcement means the city is “one step closer to seeing World Cup matches in San Diego.”

“This isn’t just good news for sports fans however,” Sanders said. “It’s also good news for virtually every single business in San Diego from our biggest hotels to our smallest restaurants.”

The mayor said hosting World Cup matches could have a $350 million to $500 million economic impact in San Diego.

“It would also be a once-in-a-generation marketing opportunity for the city,” he said.

Matches in San Diego would likely be played at the 67,700-seat Qualcomm Stadium, according to the USA Bid Committee.

Alan Kidd, executive director of the San Diego Sports Commission, said the aging Qualcomm Stadium “met every qualificatio” to hold World Cup matches, but added that the USA Bid Committee was “keenly aware” of discussions taking place in San Diego to possibly build a new stadium.

“Right now we are going with the horse we have,” Kidd said.

The 18 cities will be included in the formal bid that the USA Bid Committee will submit to FIFA, soccer’s worldwide governing body, in May in hopes of snaring the World Cup in ’18 or ’22.

“Today our hopes of becoming a host nation are strengthened many fold by the announcement of the 18 cities we will submit to FIFA on May 14,” said Sunil Gulati, the chairman of the USA Bid Committee and president of U.S. Soccer, in a statement. “These 18 cities share outstanding leadership with a vision and understanding of what a FIFA World Cup would mean to the United States, along with how well we can play the role of host to visitors from throughout the world.”

The 18 cities were narrowed from a pool of 27 originally considered to potentially host World Cup matches.

FIFA is scheduled to announce the host countries for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup on Dec. 2.

Also vying to host the tournaments are Australia, England, Japan and Russia. The Netherlands-Belgium and Portugal-Spain have also submitted joint bids for both tournaments, while Indonesia, Qatar and South Korea have applied to host the World Cup in 2022 only.

Next year’s World Cup will be held in South Africa, while the 2014 tournament will be held in Brazil.