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A Saucy Start
Hank Hersch
May 09, 1994
A soccer feast is being cooked up as the U.S. prepares to host its first-ever World Cup
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May 09, 1994

A Saucy Start

A soccer feast is being cooked up as the U.S. prepares to host its first-ever World Cup

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Dallas: TV Dinners (and Dessert, Too)
Construction began in February on the International Broadcast Center near the Cotton Bowl, where the games in Big D will be played, and the undertaking was formidable. The landmark art deco buildings at Fair Park had to be converted into a state-of-the-art TV complex to service the 120 networks that will beam the matches to 32 billion viewers 24 hours a day. (The two U.S. networks covering the World Cup, ABC and ESPN, will use their studios back East to air each of the 52 games live without commercial interruption.) A 40,000-square-foot minimall also had to be built with banks, shops and travel offices to cater to the 3,000 international journalists who will be stationed here for two months. And the incoming press did insist there be at least one yogurt stand built on the premises.

Los Angeles: Feast or Famine?

By July 17, when the seventh and final match is played at the Rose Bowl and watched by some two billion fans worldwide, it will be clear whether soccer has made the inroads in the U.S. hoped for by FIFA. The Cup will generate a profit for the U.S. Soccer Federation that Rothenberg estimates at $25 million; most of the 16 million soccer players in the States—the majority of them under 18—will follow the action; and the nine host cities will realize billions of dollars in revenues from the soccer traffic.

It will first be up to the venues to set the table and then up to the matches to leave watchers feeling full. But if the home team fails to galvanize interest, and if a series of violent acts further blemishes the sport, and if the U.S. TV ratings don't climb past those of The X-Files, then soccer, for Americans, will remain no more important than ski jumping—an event to be glanced at every quadrennium. The grand plans for robust pro leagues in the U.S. and the long-awaited soccer boom will again go bust.

Dan Tana, the owner of the restaurant on Santa Monica Boulevard that bears his name, played professionally in his native Yugoslavia and has been involved in soccer since emigrating to the U.S. in 1955. He knows a bit about the appetites of Americans ISO indoor & outdoor fun. "I think it is going to be tough," Tana says. "For one month the Cup will be important here. But the promotion and media attention has been very minimal. But I hope I am wrong, wrong, wrong, and it carries on."

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