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Blazer, Chastain Ready for Another USA World Cup



CHICAGO -  Craig Blazer and Erin Chastain would love to see the men's FIFA World Cup return to the USA.

The DePaul men's and women's soccer coaches are ready to support the USA Bid Committee's movement to bring either the 2018 or 2022 worldwide event to this country.

The U.S. hosted the 1994 men's World Cup and set an attendance record that still stands with nearly 3.6 million fans attending the month-long event, and an average of almost 69,000 per game.

Three World Cup matches were held at Soldier Field with an average attendance of 62,174.

Team USA that year advanced to the second round where it lost 1-0 to eventual champion Brazil. In the July 17 championship game at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., Brazil beat Italy 3-2 in a dramatic penalty shoot-out before an overflow crowd of 94,194.

"They will try and make this a once-in-a-lifetime event if we get it," Blazer said. "It would be held in huge football stadiums, and the organizers realize how important this would be for the sport of soccer and another generation of American fans."

Chastain was a college soccer player at Minnesota the last time the men's World Cup was held on American soil.

"Soccer in general has grown so much since the last time the World Cup was here," said Chastain, the sister-in-law of American soccer hero Brandi Chastain. "There are more people in our country following soccer now. You're seeing soccer on ESPN, and you're seeing sold-out stadiums at MLS (Major League Soccer) games."

Along with assembling an influential group of distinguished Americans to enhance its mission, the USA Bid Committee launched a petition drive last August to demonstrate support for the World Cup.

Fans can sign the online petition at http://www.gousabid.com/, and there have been more than 325,000 signatures so far. The World Cup committee is hoping to have 1 million signatures before FIFA decides on Dec. 2 which countries will host the 2018 and 2022 World Cup events. South Africa is hosting the World  Cup this summer and Brazil will host the event in 2014.

 "It would be very exciting to have another opportunity to stage the world's most popular game," Blazer said. "There's nobody better at staging a once-in-a-lifetime event than the U.S.

"Soccer continues to find its place in the fabric of America's culture. You see it in commercials and on TV shows. Soccer is being used more and more to market products

"Having the World Cup here would trigger an unbelievable cycle. Imagine all the marketing and the profits from ticket sales. We set those records in '94, and we could surpass those numbers in 2018."

Blazer was able to track the growth of soccer in this country.

"Since 1994, we now have two professional men's soccer leagues, women's pro soccer and all the quality feeder programs underneath them," said the Blue Demon coach.

"There's the increased amount of exposure on TV and the influx of money into the sport. There are new stadiums being built---like the state-of-the-art Red Bull Arena in New Jersey that will host the BIG EAST Championship semifinals and finals the next three years."

Chastain believes her up-and-coming program could reap some benefits from a World Cup in the USA.

"Going to a World Cup game can inspire youngsters t gravitate towards soccer," Chastain said. "Next, they're asking their parents to put them in a league.

"Maybe someday, they'll end up playing at DePaul.

"Having a World Cup in the U.S. will generate even more interest in our sport. It could lead to more people coming out to support the men's and women's soccer programs at DePaul."