CHESTER, PA - AUGUST 11: A view of the video board above the field during a game between Real Salt Lake and the Philadelphia Union at PPL Park on August 11, 2010 in Chester, Pennsylvania. The game was a 1-1 tie. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)

The United States is bidding to host a World Cup - possibly in eight years, but more likely in twelve.  As time ticks down on the pony show bidding process, it wouldn't be wrong to say that each and every little thing matters. The charisma of the men charged with selling the bids, the number of signatures on electronic petitions to promises of extraordinary profits; it is all meant to make the bids in question look as mouth-watering as possible to the FIFA committee.  Appearances matter.

Part of "appearances" is the number of fans in seats at soccer games around the country.  The more tickets sold, the fuller stadiums appear on television, the easier it becomes for the bid honchos to say to FIFA "See? Americans LOVE soccer! Look at all those fans!"  Throbbing masses of people waving banners and chanting gives Morgan Freeman something attractive to narrate; big crowds to watch the national team make American soccer look good.

What won't make American soccer look good is a paltry crowd at tomorrow night's USA-Colombia friendly at PPL Park in Chester.  The most recent information has ticket sales at somewhere in the mid-five (oops, I meant four - specifically, I've heard 6500-8000 tickets sold) figures and with capacity at the Union's house 18,500, a mad last-minute rush for tickets will need to happen for the crowd to even come close to respectable.  The game certainly won't be a sell-out.

So why schedule the game there in the first place?  No slight to Philadelphia and its soccer fans, but the idea that a National Team friendly against a lesser opponent would draw well at a stadium located in a troubled neighborhood on a weeknight was doomed from the start.  For a federation putting so much into their World Cup bid, it seems like an odd mistake to make.  Appearances, appearances, appearances.

The point isn't that one game's attendance shouldn't mean much what is surely a incredibly compelling USA bid (it shouldn't), the point is that US Soccer should strive to make sure any strikes against the bid are minimal.  Half-filling an 18,000 seat stadium for an international friendly isn't exactly a selling point.

The practical concerns of scheduling these games are surely more complicated than many of us realize.  US Soccer knows sell-outs are difficult if not impossible, hence deferring to the large Polish community in Chicago by placed a USA-Poland friendly there.  Without the Polish contingent, Soldier Field might have been a depressing scene on Saturday night; though US supporters being outnumbered isn't a feather in the US bids cap, the simple drawing power of soccer is.  The bid committee has stressed the multi-cultural nature of American soccer support through videos like the one below, so it does no real harm to have the USMNT playing as the "away" side.  That reality is nothing new.  Spinning it as a positive is the only reasonable tact.

But there isn't any similar way to spin empty seats.  Unless a sudden wave of ex-pat Colombians rises up to fill the majority of PPL Park, tomorrow's game will disaster at the gate.  It's little surprise that US Soccer has foregone their usual ticket-sale updates.  This is downright embarrassing.

In the grand scheme, the attendance at one international friendly probably won't mean much.  The weight of the United States' superior infrastructure and World Cup ticket-selling track record should be what ultimately wins the bid (that or vote-trading).  But in this one instance, wherein appearances can and should be manipulated, US Soccer has failed.
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