By Peter Schwartz
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Joe Stetson was having a quiet Thursday in his office at Red Arena until late in the afternoon when U.S. Soccer made official what had been rumored for weeks.
The United States Men’s National Team will host Costa Rica in a World Cup Qualifier on Sept. 1 at 6:30 p.m.
That’s when the Red Bulls’ vice president of marketing and communications was hit with a barrage of phone calls.
“Right after the release came out, I got about two dozen text messages and emails from everybody coming out of the woodwork asking for tickets,” Stetson told WFAN.com during an exclusive phone interview on Thursday night.
The World Cup qualifier is going to be one tough ticket because it’s an event that is unprecedented in New York/New Jersey soccer history.
“For this to be the first time that that there’s a World Cup qualifier in this area, it’s a proud moment for the team, the venue, and all the people that work in the organization,” Stetson said.
Think about it.
When you look back at the history of soccer in this area, there were the glory days of the New York Cosmos, who regularly filled Giants Stadium, the 1994 World Cup matches at the Meadowlands, other international tournaments, more than two decades of MetroStars/Red Bulls soccer, and now two Major League Soccer franchises in the area.
But there has never been a match like this.
The U.S.-Costa Rica showdown is going to take place at a stadium that is considered by many to be the premier soccer venue in the United States. Red Bull Arena has hosted many memorable events since opening its doors in 2010, including the grand opening match when the Red Bulls took on Santos of Brazil, the MLS opening match, sold-out league playoff games, and a plethora of international friendly matches.
To say that a World Cup qualifier will be great for business is a massive understatement.
“This is an incredible opportunity for us and we view this as a great opportunity for metropolitan fans to see our country’s best talent compete in our country’s best soccer venue,” Stetson said. “This really solidifies that this is a destination for international soccer to come and really showcase the best venue for soccer in the states.”
Tickets for the match will go on sale at www.ussoccer.com on July 25 at 10 a.m., but Red Bulls Members (season ticket holders) will get first dibs through a special pre-sale that will run from July 11 at 2 p.m. until July 14 at 8 p.m.
“It’s another special benefit to our fans,” Stetson said. “So, there’s definitely going to be an opportunity for our Red Bulls regulars to be able to get first crack at it.”
Fans in the area that have been to Red Bull Arena over the years already know about the amazing fan experience that takes place in and around the stadium before, during, and after matches. But on Sept. 1, there will be more than the typical crowd in Harrison.
There will certainly be a sea of red, white, and blue comprised of many Red Bulls supporters, American Outlaws U.S. Supporters, as well as fans supporting Costa Rica. Also among what is expected to be a capacity crowd of 25,000 will be some curious onlookers that might be at Red Bull Arena for the first time or maybe even at their first big-ticket soccer match.
“From a fan-development perspective, it’s a great way to get new fans to experience it,” Stetson said. “From U.S. Soccer fans to the large Costa Rican population in the New York/New Jersey area, we’re just excited for them to come, sample soccer at Red Bull Arena and hopefully come back for Red Bulls matches as well.”
The Red Bulls have won plenty of matches at their spectacular home, which has contributed to a pair of Supporters Shields, back-to-back Eastern Conference regular season titles, and an incredible atmosphere for the team and its fans. But when you really examine why Red Bull Arena was awarded this World Cup qualifier, it goes beyond the 11 players on the field and the technical staff.
The chance to host is due in large part to the hard work by many Red Bulls employees behind the scenes like arena VP of operation Shaun Oliver and grounds crew director Dan Shemesh. Now that the franchise has been awarded this game, the Red Bulls are hoping for the beginning of a new soccer tradition.
“It’s an honor and hopefully it won’t be the last,” Stetson said. “Hopefully it’s the start of a regular occurrence where Red Bulls Arena is circled as a destination and a venue for these World Cup qualifiers going forward.”
There was a time when names like Pele, Chinaglia, and Beckenbauer turned Giants Stadium into “Cosmos Country.” That same venue hosted the World Cup and other international matches, but never a World Cup qualifier. Neither has MetLife Stadium, Yankee Stadium, or any other venue in the area.
There’s a first time for everything and for the New York/New Jersey area that first time will be the first day of September at Red Bull Arena, now officially the home office for soccer in the metropolitan area.
And with so many people wanting tickets, Stetson may have to change his cellphone number.
Don’t forget to follow Pete on Twitter @pschwartzcbsfan. You can also follow @NewYorkRedBulls, @RedBullArena, and @ussoccer