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No City Left Behind: Chester And PPL Park Included In Gold Cup Tournament

By Kevin Kinkead

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The marquee matchup takes place on Sunday, July 26th, at 7:30pm.

That's when the 2015 Gold Cup final will be played in front of, undoubtedly, a capacity crowd at Lincoln Financial Field.

Philadelphia was officially awarded the championship game of this summer's North American soccer tournament at a press conference on Thursday morning.

The "lesser" matchup, meantime, takes place on Saturday, July 25th.

For the first time in 12 years, the Gold Cup will feature a third-place game, and that game will be played at PPL Park, the home of the Philadelphia Union.

That's a victory for the Union and the city of Chester, which will now benefit from a tournament that could have bypassed Delaware County and the stadium completely.

"CONCACAF wanted to have both of those games in the same city, back to back, Saturday and Sunday," said Union CEO and Operating partner Nick Sakiewicz. "Our partnership with the Eagles has been famous since we came to town. It's because of that partnership, and the support of Mayor Nutter and the administration, that we were able to pull it off and provide such a strong bid. PPL Park is important, Lincoln Financial Field is important, but what's most important is the relationship between all of us to make these things happen, because they're not easy bids. They're tough gets."

The third place game will likely feature at least one of Mexico, the United States, Costa Rica, and Honduras. The merit of a consolation game can be debated, but PPL Park has a good track record of attendance and interest in hosting both international and club exhibitions that do not count for anything.

Last summer, World Cup warm-up games between Greece and Nigeria, and Costa Rica and Ireland, drew 10,131 fans and 7,000 fans, respectively.

Even after a scoreless draw, Greece fans partied outside the stadium, dancing and singing for more than two hours after the final whistle.

Costa Rica fans were boisterous from the get-go, and created an atmosphere that rivaled and maybe even eclipsed some of the more high-profile Union games in franchise history.

The draw for those fans, mostly ex-pats, was the opportunity to see national sides that rarely play in this region. It's quite conceivable that a third place game featuring one of the larger CONCACAF sides will sell out the stadium.

In this case, with the final at Lincoln Financial Field, and the third-place game at PPL Park, the weekend can be viewed as a win/win for both Chester and Philadelphia.

"The Philadelphia Union officially plays in Chester at PPL Park of course, which is a great, great park," Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter told CBS Philly on Thursday. "They've obviously played here at Lincoln Financial Field. Nick Sakiewicz and his team do a fantastic job. The partnership between Nick, and Don Smolenski, and the Philadelphia Eagles I think is the basis for how we were able to make this connection and make this attraction. The third place match is being played at PPL Park and the final here at Lincoln Financial Field. You can't find two better facilities that are closer to each other as you do with those. These teams all work together here in the city. We're thrilled about this."

The economic benefits are easy enough to explain.

Philadelphia will host tens-of-thousands of fans for the final. That's business for hotels, restaurants, and SEPTA.

Chester's mostly seasonal PPL Park employees will get another work day on the calendar. Independent parking lot operators and other businesses that benefit from Union matches will see the same benefits for this game.

"I think it's a great opportunity for PPL Park and the city," Chester Mayor John Linder explained. "The city is always happy to host an event of this magnitude. That's what PPL Park has brought to the city, those types of opportunities and exposure. We're certainly proud to be hosting it. It gives our citizens and our vendors a chance to participate at some level. I'm not sure what the pregame activities will be at this point yet, but again, there are increased opportunities for our citizens to work on days that we have games like this, and it's also about revenue generating for the city. It's a great thing."

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