CONCACAF general secretary Enrique Sanz said Wednesday that despite a low number of advanced ticket sales for Sunday's Gold Cup quarterfinals at M&T Bank Stadium, he expects the number of tickets to spike dramatically now that local soccer fans know that the U.S. men's national team is coming to Baltimore.
Sanz said in a telephone interview that around 26,000 tickets had been sold prior to Tuesday's final pool play games that determined the matchups, but a sellout at the stadium, which seats more than 71,000 fans, wouldn't shock him.
The United States, which won Group C with Tuesday night's 1-0 victory over Costa Rica in East Hartford, Conn., will play El Salvador at 4 p.m. Sunday. Costa Rica will meet Honduras in the second game, which is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Sanz said the United States-El Salvador match was set for the earlier time at the request of Fox Sports, which will televise the match.
"It's an honor to be going to Baltimore [and playing] in such a beautiful, magnificent stadium for the quarterfinal games," Sanz said. "We're very pleased with the matchups. I think it will be a great football festival."
Sanz said the low presale numbers weren't unexpected given the uncertainty of the matchups. The U.S. team did not clinch its place in the quarterfinals until last Saturday's 4-1 win over Cuba in Sandy, Utah.
"All the games throughout the Gold Cup have been increasing [in ticket sales] from the first game, and we expect that for the quarterfinals," Sanz said. "Overnight and into today, we are seeing a lot of tickets being sold. … It would not be a surprise to have a sellout in Baltimore knowing the market. Anything can happen."
Baker Koppelman, vice president of ticket sales and operations for the Ravens, who are hosting the event, compared Sunday's games to when the NCAA lacrosse championships are played at the stadium. General fans of the sport buy tickets in advance, while supporters of specific schools purchase seats once their teams advance.
"We are crossing our fingers that maybe we do sell this thing out before the weekend … it's trending that way," Koppelman said. "The volume has increased dramatically since last night. Now it's just a matter of at what point does that hit the wall, if at all."
In this case, the fact that the three other teams have very devoted fan bases in Maryland because of the state's large Hispanic population could push the attendance toward a sellout similar to the one for the friendly between Chelsea and AC Milan in 2010. Subsequent friendlies in two of the past three years drew much smaller crowds.
"No doubt about it, all indications from what we've seen, that's a big factor," Koppelman said of the fans of El Salvador, Costa Rica and Honduras. "It reaches all the way down into Washington, [D.C.,] and up the East Coast, as well. Once the word's out, people will start coming."
On Sunday, the U.S. team will make its first appearance in Baltimore since 1997.
"It has been a very good soccer market with certain international games," Sanz said. "We thought we should go to Baltimore because it has a very good fan base and a beautiful stadium."
Gold Cup quarterfinals
M&T Bank Stadium, Sunday
4 p.m.: Group C winner United States vs. Group B third place El Salvador
7 p.m.: Group B winner Honduras vs. Group C runner-up Costa Rica
More information: CONCACAF.comCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun