2002 May 22

From US-Soccer's news release:

Qualifying for the 2003 Women's World Cup to Take Place at Four West Coast Venues Including Safeco Field

CHICAGO (Wednesday, May 22, 2002) — The 2002 CONCACAF Women's Gold Cup Tournament, which will serve as this region's qualifying competition for the 2003 FIFA Women's World Cup in China, will be held from Oct. 27-Nov. 9, 2002, at four venues on the West Coast of the North America with the championship match at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. on Saturday, Nov. 9.

The eight-team tournament, which features two groups of four teams each, will take place at Titan Stadium in Fullerton, Calif., at Centennial Stadium in Victoria, Canada and at Safeco Field in Seattle, Wash., as well as at the world-famous Rose Bowl, site of the 1984 Olympic Final, the 1994 World Cup Final and the 1999 Women’s World Cup Final. All of the group matches will be played as doubleheaders. Ticket information for all four venues will be announced in the very near future.

The USA will open the tournament on Sunday, Oct. 27, against Mexico at the Rose Bowl, then play its second first-round match on Tuesday, Oct. 29, against a Caribbean nation at Titan Stadium before traveling to Seattle for the final game of group play on Saturday, Nov. 2, against a Central American team. Should the Americans qualify for the semifinals, they will stay in Seattle, as both semifinals will be played as a doubleheader at Safeco Field on Wednesday, Nov. 6. The matches in Canada’s group in Victoria, B.C. will be played on Oct. 30, Nov. 1 and Nov. 3.

The eight teams will play round robin matches within their groups with the two finishers in each group "crossing over" for the semifinals. The winner of the two semifinals will earn two of CONCACAF’s 2.5 berths in the 2003 Women’s World Cup and will play for the regional championship, last won by the USA in 2000 in the inaugural edition of the CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup. Much will be at stake in the third place match, however, as the winner of that game will qualify to play the third place finisher in the Asia qualifying tournament in a home-and-home series for a spot at the fourth Women’s World Cup.

The USA was placed in Group 1, which will play at the Rose Bowl, Titan Stadium and at Safeco Field, along with Mexico, the runner-up in the Central American qualifying tournament and the winner of Group A in the Caribbean qualifying tournament, with the latter two having to go through pre-qualifying in their respective regions to win a spot at the Women’s Gold Cup. Group 2, which will be played entirely in Victoria, B.C., will feature Canada, the winner of the Central American qualifying tournament, the winner of Group B in Caribbean qualifying and the 3rd place finisher in the Caribbean tournament. The schedule will be finalized following the completion of all the pre-qualifying matches. All three of the North Zone participants – the USA, Canada and Mexico – were given berths directly into the final competition.

Caribbean qualifying will begin at the end of June and will be completed by the end of August. Twelve teams have entered the competition and have been placed into two groups with each group winner advancing to the Women’s Gold Cup finals. The two group runners-up will playoff for the third Caribbean slot available.

The Central Zone qualifying tournament is tentatively scheduled for August with the top two finishers advancing to the Women’s Gold Cup finals, the winner placed into Group 2, the runner-up to Group 1.

Should the Americans advance to the championship game, it will be the first appearance at the Rose Bowl for the U.S. women since the historic 1999 Women’s World Cup Final on July 10, 1999. The U.S. Women’s National Team has not played a World Cup qualifying match in almost eight years, last experiencing qualifying action on August 21, 1994, in a 6-0 victory over Canada in Montreal to qualify for the 1995 Women’s World Cup in Sweden.

"The best thing about World Cup qualifying is that we have to qualify," said U.S. head coach April Heinrichs. "It gives our training and our WUSA post-season a sense of purpose and gives our national team players a focus coming off their professional seasons. By the time the World Cup qualifying tournament rolls around it will have been almost two years since we last played a match in a FIFA event."

*Kickoff of semifinal matches subject to change pending television.