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Music City puts best foot forward in World Cup bid

More than 5,000 Middle Tennessee residents braved the Sunday heat to attend an outdoor viewing party at LP Field for the World Cup final between Spain and the Netherlands, won by the Spaniards 1-0.

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=World+Cup&iid=9339278″ src=”http://view2.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/9339278/sports-news-july-2010/sports-news-july-2010.jpg?size=500&imageId=9339278″ width=”234″ height=”363″ /]The viewing party was sponsored by the Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau, the driving force behind the Music City’s bid to be part of the U.S.’s bid to serve as host for the World Cup in 2018 or 2022. The NCVB filmed the event, and NCVB President Butch Spyridon said Monday that highlights would be included in Nashville’s video to be sent to the U.S. Soccer Federation in August.

So those 5,000 people could be viewed as lunatics … or benefactors. I gave a passing thought to taking my stepsons to LP Field to watch the game, but I reconsidered because I’m not a big fan of temperatures that would allow me to bake a potato in my shirt pocket. But if those who endured the heat in some way help pave the way for Nashville to be one of the dozen-or-so host cities should a U.S. bid be successful they are owed a serious thank you. They will have aided Middle Tennessee in landing an event that has an estimated economic impact of $400 million to $600 million.

“We felt like 5,000 was a credible, respectable number,” Spyridon told Sportsinthe615. “We understood that we were asking people to sit outside in 95-degree heat and watch TV. In reality what we were attempting was a little bit daunting.

“The enthusiasm (at the viewing party) probably shocked me more than the numbers. They were pretty engaged.”

That’s because the World Cup brings out the same kind of nationalistic fervor that Olympics do. It’s OK once every four years to show interest in soccer or bobsledding or the discus. I’m not saying I personally am going to make it an everyday habit, but the World Cup is kind of cool.

There, I said it. I’m coming out of the soccer closet. I even watched games that didn’t involve the U.S. team. Yes, it helped that the United States made it out of the group stage. But soccer at the highest level can be pretty amazing to watch. Now I wish players didn’t flop at every possible chance, and I wish there was more scoring. I realize that makes me sound like just another boneheaded, late-to-the-party, American soccer neophyte. Guilty. Are you telling me you really prefer nil-nil to 3-2? I didn’t think so.

Why has soccer worked in Nashville? How did it make it past the first cut to be among the final 18 cities being considered as part of the U.S. bid?

“I think one reason is because the facility (LP Field) works so well as a soccer venue,” Spyridon said. “And we’re a more diverse community than the usual suspect thinks we are. We tend to get pigeonholed in country-music terms, but we have a huge Kurdish population and a huge Hispanic population.

“When we made the initial pitch (to the U.S. Soccer Federation) it (the diversity of the Middle Tennessee community) was a pretty strong statement. U.S. Soccer is looking at us and they don’t think of us as diverse. We used it on our written bid and the mayor talked about it and that was eye-catching to them. I think it will play an even bigger role when FIFA (the international soccer governing body that awards the World Cup) takes a look at us.”

FIFA and USA Soccer will get a closer look at all 18 cities over Labor Day weekend. According to Spyridon, each city will send a small delegation to meet with both entities and present a 5-minute video espousing its virtues as a potential World Cup site.

Our video will showcase the facility and the enthusiasm for soccer in this area,” said Spyridon, who said he’d be accompanied by Mayor Karl Dean and hopefully by someone in the Titans’ organization.

Nashville is the smallest of the 18 cities remaining. You can go to goUSAbid.com/Nashville and sign a petition to support the Music City getting its kicks. Each city has a signature page.

“We’re ahead of Phoenix and barely behind San Diego,” Spyridon said. “Six weeks ago we were at 9,500. Everybody else was using May to get ready for the World Cup kickoff and we were bailing water. We lost six weeks and then had the CMA Music Festival right after that, but now we’ve made up a lot of ground.”

Spyridon said Nashville now has more than 17,000 signatures.

FIFA is scheduled to announce the host sites for World Cup 2018 and World Cup 2022 on Dec. 2. Spyridon said USA Soccer has no such timetable to pare the 18 cities involved in its bid, but his hope is that it will happen sooner rather than later.

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