The U.S. Soccer Federation has finally given its most detailed explanation yet on why it awarded the U.S. Open Cup final to D.C. United's RFK Stadium, rather than to Qwest Field.
"It's pretty simple," said Neil Buethe, USSF senior manager of communication. "We reviewed both bids from Seattle and D.C. United and there was a number of things that made our decision to choose D.C. in the end. The first one was that D.C.'s bid was better financially. But we also looked at other aspects, and one of them was the timing of the game. Due to timing of the game that was in (Seattle's bid) there could potentially be TV issues if it's earlier in the day. Another is the playing surface: Obviously, natural grass is preferred. Not that that cancels out a team like Seattle that doesn't play on natural grass, but it is something that is considered. And then obviously things like football lines and how it looks on TV is also taken into consideration."
The problem is, none of that is really as simple as Buethe implies up top.
For one thing, the issue about football lines is fully beside the point, since neither surface has visible football lines during soccer matches. And while Buethe gave me a follow-up call to acknowledge that, D.C. United and US Soccer had implied previously that they had indeed expected Qwest to keep its soccer lines once the NFL season began.
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However, even dismissing that, Sounders general manager Adrian Hanauer also wasn't any more impressed about how his proposed afternoon kickoff affected the TV plans. He said he had received assurance from the federation that Fox Soccer Channel had approved the afternoon kickoff he had proposed for Qwest. And he added that he would have sought a later kickoff if the earlier time had been identified as a problem.
Finally, Hanauer said even the financial portions of the bid can be subjective because bids often combine guaranteed minimums with a percentage of the take, which can't be known in advance.
"That circles back to my earlier comments about transparency," Hanauer said. "I don't understand why they couldn't release the bids. Then everybody could see why one was chosen over another. And/or I think it would be nice if they would publicly publish the full criteria by which they make their decision. I'm still not sure that I understand it."