BY PHIL ANDREWS, Senior Writer
That scenario however changed with the Aug. 23, 2003 opening of Lincoln Financial Field, an NFL (National Football League) style stadium with a real grass surface.
Ironically the first ever event held at Lincoln Financial Field was a soccer friendly between European club powers Manchester United and FC Barcelona. I consider myself lucky to have been among the 68,000 plus in attendance that night as United beat Barca 3-1.
The following year, when Man U returned to Philadelphia to play another friendly, this time against Glasgow Celtic, Legendary United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson proclaimed the “pitch” at Lincoln Financial Field among the best he had seen and also referred to the reception afforded the visiting soccer powers as “excellent.”
The site lines at this stadium make Lincoln Financial Field a great venue to watch soccer, which probably explains why Philadelphia has been fortunate enough over the past seven years to host a hand full of International Matches.
In 2003 several FIFA Women’s World Cup Games were played at the Linc. Then after winning the soccer gold-medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics, the U.S. Women’s National Team conducted a “Fan Celebration Tour,” playing ten games across the United States between September and December. On Nov. 6 of 2004 they dropped a 3-1 decision to Denmark.
More recently Lincoln Financial Field was host to a pair of 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinal matches. The first quarterfinal was between Canada and Honduras, the second between Panama and the U.S. Men’s National Team (USMNT).
That game marked the first full international appearance for the USMNT in Philadelphia since 1968 when the U.S. lost a 4-0 friendly to Israel. That game was played at the former Temple Stadium once located in the city’s East Mount Airy section.
Well Philadelphia area soccer fans will get a chance once again to break out their national team scarves and jerseys on May 29 when the USMNT hosts Turkey in the final U.S. match before the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
Speaking of the World Cup, in April 2009, Lincoln Financial Field was listed by U.S. Soccer’s World Cup bid committee as one of 58 stadiums to be potential sites for World Cup matches in either 2018 or 2022. In June 2009, it was announced that Lincoln Financial Field made the cut as one of 45 out of 70 stadium game sites under continued consideration. Lincoln Financial Field made the cut again when the stadium list was reduced from 45 to 32 on August 20, 2009.
Wait, there’s more. On Jan. 12, 2010 the Linc survived yet another cut advancing to the list of 18 bid city finalists to be included in the official bid book that will handed over to FIFA on May 14, 2010.
By the way, the MLS (Major League Soccer) expansion Philadelphia Union will play their home opener at Lincoln Financial Field on April 10, 2010 due to construction delays at their future home in Chester, PA. The Union plans to limit ticket sales to the lower bowl and club sections, totaling about 37,500 seats.