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World Cup final to be played in Carson, Calif.

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NEW YORK — The Women's World Cup has a site and date for the championship game. Now if organizers could just come up with a schedule for the openers.

The new, soccer-only Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., officially was selected Thursday as the site for the Oct. 12 final. The 16-team tournament will begin the weekend of Sept. 20-21 on the East Coast, but exactly where is not certain.

U.S. Soccer, which is organizing the event after FIFA, the world soccer governing body, switched it from China because of the SARS virus, hoped to have the host team open at Giants Stadium. When that could not be arranged, the New Jersey site was dropped from the tournament altogether.

"Availability was a major issue for the New York venue," U.S. Soccer president Bob Contiguglia said.

"I am frustrated, disappointed and very angry," replied George Zoffinger, chief executive of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority. "To have the women's World Cup without the premier venue in the Northeast not involved is a travesty."

The other sites are Philadelphia's new Lincoln Financial Field; RFK Stadium in Washington; Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass.; Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio; and PGE Park in Portland, Ore.

"Our first task since accepting this challenge two weeks ago was to find the six venues that made the most sense, both geographically and functionally, to host matches in the Women's World Cup," Contiguglia added. "With these six world-class stadiums, we know we have done that."

RFK Stadium is the likely locale for the defending champion United States' opener. Philadelphia, because of conflicts with the Phillies in the same sports complex, won't be available for the first weekend.

The schedule must be approved by FIFA and is expected to be ready next week.

The highly successful 1999 Women's World Cup featured a sold-out opener at Giants Stadium and a standing-room-only finale at the Rose Bowl, which lost out to the Carson venue this time.

"Clearly the Home Depot Center represents our future," Contiguglia said. "The environment is fantastic for the players and the spectators. Soccer specific stadiums are the direction we are taking and Home Depot Center symbolizes that."

FIFA also insisted on less travel for the teams than four years ago. By choosing these six sites, U.S. Soccer secretary general Dan Flynn said the number of team movements would be cut from 42 to about 30. The tournament also will move from east to west, thus limiting cross-country trips.

In all, 12 cities were finalists. Along with Giants Stadium and the Rose Bowl, others not chosen were San Jose, Calif; Seattle; Birmingham, Ala.; Atlanta; Phoenix; Hartford, Conn.; Charlotte, N.C.; and Las Vegas.

As late as last Wednesday, U.S. Soccer was in discussions with New Jersey Meadowlands authorities and the New York Giants about Giants Stadium. The Giants objected to the potential disruptions in their training schedule — their practice facility is just outside the stadium, and they planned to use the stadium for some workouts.

"The clock ran out," said Flynn. "It was several factors: installation of grass and the timing for the event itself. Other challenges came to light."

The tournament will have games in two NFL stadiums, in Philadelphia and Foxboro. Games will be played on weekends and weekdays, and all will be part of doubleheaders.

Playing the final on a Sunday afternoon opposite NFL games did not seem to faze tournament organizers. With the World Cup originally scheduled for China, most games would have been televised in the early morning. Now, the games will go up against a busy calendar that also includes college football, the baseball pennant races and playoffs, and the start of the NHL season.

"The broadest window happens to be on Sunday," said MLS commissioner Don Garber, whose group controls the television rights that were sold to ABC and ESPN. "The most limited is Saturday by college football. We are very comfortable, particularly for the final. We have our piece of real estate. It is somewhat of a different market. This is a huge event and has global proportions."