The Full 90

Sporting hopes to host World Cup qualifier

Updated: 2012-11-09T05:42:35Z

Circle the date Sept. 10.

It’s a Tuesday if you’re wondering, but it’s also the next home meeting for the U.S. men’s national team against rival Mexico — a game Sporting Club officials hope will be played at Livestrong Sporting Park.

“I don’t have any specific information,” Sporting Club president Robb Heineman said. “I’ve heard anecdotes and things of that nature, but I don’t think it’s a question of if we get a World Cup qualifier. I think it’s how many we’re going to get.”

It’s no secret that club officials built Livestrong with a promise to bring big-time, world-class soccer matches to Kansas City.

And short of an actual World Cup game, playing host to Mexico in the final round of World Cup qualifying is big as it gets for U.S. soccer.

Sports Illustrated senior writer Grant Wahl tweeted Thursday morning that Mexican Football Association president Justino Campean was told by U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati the Sept. 10 game won’t be in Columbus, a comment perhaps made in jest and certainly subject to change.

What’s not subject to change is the path to a seventh straight World Cup appearance for the U.S., which came into focus Wednesday when the draw was completed for the final round of CONCACAF 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying.

Dates and opponents now are set for “The Hex,” a six-team round-robin tournament that will help set the field for the next World Cup, so the jockeying to host games officially can begin.

“I think it’s clear that (U.S. coach) Jurgen (Klinsmann) thinks Livestrong is the best place for the Mexico game,” Heineman said. “As far as amenities for players and the environment the fans create, there is no better place.”

If not Mexico, Heineman believes the match with Honduras — arguably the second-toughest home contest and likely to feature Sporting KC midfielder Roger Espinoza — should be staged at Livestrong.

“I really feel we’re going to get Honduras or Mexico,” he said. “Nothing is imminent at this point, but really, from my perspective, all of the games should be here.”

While that won’t happen (sorry!), next year could offer plenty of chances for additional international exposure for Livestrong, whose passionate fan base and intimate confines create a substantial home-field advantage — the most important thing in placing the highest-profile U.S. soccer matches.

Of course, the stadium alone, which is the most technologically advanced and plush soccer-specific stadiums in the nation (and perhaps the world), is a significant attraction for the U.S. squad in and of itself.

There will be other competitions as well, the CONCACAF Gold Cup is in July and there will be some friendlies sprinkled in to celebrate U.S. Soccer’s centennial, but Sporting KC officials are focused intently on the World Cup qualifiers — specifically Mexico.

| Tod Palmer, tpalmer@kcstar.com

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