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Stadium Rose Bowl – a stadium fit for finals

Few, if any, other stadiums in the world have forged a reputation as a venue for major events in two different football codes. What is more, no other arena in the world has hosted both the men’s and women’s World Cup final and an Olympic gold medal match.
In this age of modern stadiums that boast state-of-the-art facilities, sky boxes and movable roofs, the Rose Bowl retains a charm that harks back to more simple times. If it rains, a fan had better have an umbrella because every seat is uncovered.
The Rose Bowl oozes football history – both the American gridiron kind and the real football we all know and love – not to mention memories of American Independence Day celebrations, concerts and religious services. It is also home to the world’s largest flea market.
“It does not have all the conveniences of a modern stadium, but there’s just something about those kinds of stadiums – the history, the ambience, the atmosphere – the sound just travels really well,” said former Los Angeles Galaxy coach Sigi Schmid, whose Major League Soccer team called the stadium home. “I remember Luis Hernandez’s first game,” he added of the former Mexican international. “It was pretty full. It wasn’t sold out but there were a lot of people there. Just the sound and the noise. It seemed that you could hear each individual voice a lot of times. But when you think of all of the great sporting events that have taken place there and the World Cup final and Olympic final, it’s just a great stadium.”
Opened in 1923, the Rose Bowl is home to the University of California, Los Angeles’ college gridiron team, from September to December. The stadium has also hosted five Super Bowls – the championship game of the National [American] Football League.
Every 1 January, the Rose Bowl hosts one of the climactic games of the American college gridiron season, called, quite appropriately, the Rose Bowl. Before the selection process was changed, the Rose Bowl traditionally pitted the winners of the Big 10 conference from the Midwestern portion of the USA against the PAC-10 from the west coast. This past January, for example, the University of Southern California defeated Michigan State 32-18.
The Rose Bowl has staged countless football matches. The Los Angeles Aztecs of the old North American Soccer League played there with the great Johan Cruyff and George Best in their ranks and the field has also witnessed the talents of Pele, Carlos Alberto and Franz Beckenbauer, among other football legends.
The stadium did not gain worldwide renown, however, until a generation ago at the 1984 Summer Olympics. While the L.A. Coliseum in downtown Los Angeles was the hot venue for the track and field competition, the Rose Bowl became the focus of attention for football.
No one expected it at all, but it soon became clear that something special was happening when a crowd of 63,624 watched the USA lose 1 -0 to Italy. The Americans were eliminated in the opening round, yet attendances continued to rise for matches featuring teams and players that were unfamiliar to American sports fans. In the semi-finals, France defeated Yugoslavia 4-2 in front of 97,451.
Four days later, the bronze-medal match – generally considered a rather meaningless affair – attracted an incredible 100,374 as Yugoslavia edged out Italy 2-1. That was a hard act to follow, but France and Brazil succeeded with a 2-0 gold-medal triumph for the French in front of 101,799, a record that still stands today as the largest crowd in US football history.
Those impressive crowds laid the groundwork for USA’s bid for the 1994 FIFA World Cup™. “FIFA and the world of sports were equally surprised,” FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter wrote in the FIFA official report on the Summer Games. “The Olympic Football Tournament surpassed the keenest hopes.” Suddenly, the USA’s stock as an international organiser of football events was on the rise and so were its World Cup aspirations as the Americans were eventually named hosts of the 1994 event.
The tournament produced a number of classic confrontations. As a warm-up, the USA took on Mexico at the bowl on 4 June in front of 91,123 spectators, with the hosts prevailing 1-0 thanks to an Eric Wynalda goal. Less than three weeks later, the Americans stunned Colombia 2-1 – Andres Escobar’s unfortunate own goal that would cost him his life and Earnie Stewart’s strike making the difference – in a key first-round encounter, while Romania knocked out Argentina in a memorable round-of-sixteen match. Not surprisingly, the Rose Bowl was filled to the hilt for the entire tournament, with 94,194 witnessing Brazil capture their fourth World Cup.
Five years later, in 1999, another world championship was decided by penalties. But this finish was much more dramatic with the hosts, the US women’s team, overcoming China 5-4 thanks to Brandi Chastain’s decisive spot kick.
The Rose Bowl has not seen much football since the Los Angeles Galaxy moved south to the Home Depot Center in Carson, California, in 2003. But if another major international football event is held in the USA, it would not be at all surprising if this venerable facility was called upon again to host some matches and make some more history.