Jake Reid and Jill Ellis - Children's Mercy Park photo
Olivia Brestal

Quotes: Jake Reid on Gold Cup, plus Jill Ellis and Jay Berhalter weigh in on Tournament of Nations

In joint announcements with U.S. Soccer and Concacaf, respectively, Sporting Kansas City confirmed Wednesday that Children's Mercy Park will host a 2018 Tournament of Nations doubleheader featuring the U.S. Women's National Team on July 26 as well as a 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup doubleheader next summer.

Sporting KC President and CEO Jake Reid, U.S. Women's National Team Head Coach Jill Ellis and U.S. Soccer Chief Commercial Officer Jay Berhalter conducted a press conference with local and national media Wednesday at Children's Mercy Park to discuss both announcements. The full transcript is below.

Reid on the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup doubleheader

Initial remarks...

We're extremely excited about this announcement to host the Concacaf Gold Cup once again in 2019. When we opened Children's Mercy Park in 2011, I think these were the type of events that we wanted to host and knew we could host. This was our way to shine the spotlight on Kansas City, Kansas and the region. When you throw in Pinnacle — the new, world-class training facility which we believe is one of the . best training centers in the world — with what we already have here at Children's Mercy Park, I think this will only enhance everything. We're incredibly excited to host this tournament, and it's the third time we've had the honor of hosting the Gold Cup here in Kansas City.

With the U.S. as the host country, although we don't know the teams yet, we're optimistic that there's a chance the U.S. will be one of those teams (playing at Children's Mercy Park. But regardless of who we host (in the doubleheader), we're going to put on a great show. Obviously with the 2026 World Cup bid, we're one of eight cities in the United Bid that is in line to host (Gold Cup matches). So for us, this is just another showcase next summer of what we can do here in Kansas City.

On the impact of Pinnacle drawing international matches to Kansas City...

I think it's going to be a huge deal. I think it's hard to say because we haven't done them yet. Obviously with the Tournament of Nations being announced today and having four national teams come in this summer, I think that's the start of it. And then when you throw (the Gold Cup) on top of that next summer, you need to have these events to have those nations come in, see the facility, experience the world-class nature of it, and ultimately when they leave they're talking to everyone else about it. And I think that's kind of how the word spreads. We saw that a little bit with (Children's Mercy Park) in 2011, so I don't think you can underplay the importance of having a world-class training center that can host four different teams and be a fantastic venue for that. So we believe it makes a massive difference and will only continue to enhance the type of events we get here.

On if Sporting KC has been given any indication that the U.S. MNT will play at Children's Mercy Park in the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup doubleheader...

Not really. I think we'll find that out sometime soon, but we haven't really been given a head not one way or the other. Based on history, we're optimistic that there's a pretty good chance of that happening.

On whether these events will help Kansas City's bid as a potential host city for the 2026 World Cup...

I think everything helps. For us, no one would admit that they're linked, but I think us putting on a great showcase anytime we can on the national and international stage certainly doesn't hurt our chances. We'll find out (on June 13) about the United Bid, and if we are fortunate enough as a region to receive that, they won't decide the cities for a couple of years after that. So I think that any of these marquee events where we can demonstrate an unbelievable crowd and atmosphere in Kansas City goes a long way to help that cause.

Reid, Ellis and Berhalter on the 2018 Tournament of Nations

Reid's initial remarks...

We thrilled to host not only the U.S. Women's National Team, but three other great teams for a doubleheader here at Children's Mercy Park.

Berhalter's initial remarks...

We're excited to bring the Tournament of Nations here to Kansas City. It's the second edition of this competition featuring four of the top teams in the world. I want to say a special thanks to Jake and the Sporting Kansas City ownership for all they've done in this market. The relationship we have is obviously very special, not only with past events but with the new partnership at Pinnacle. I will also say that fans in the market have really stepped up over the last 6-8 years and put Kansas City on the map as real supporters of the game here. We're excited to see what they bring this summer around the U.S. Women's National Team.

Ellis' initial remarks...

Obviously the goal for us is to qualify (for the 2019 World Cup), and this tournament helps facilitate that in terms of playing some of the best teams in the world prior to qualifying (in October). These teams all play different styles, which lends itself to having to prepare for very different types of teams. We are really excited to come back here. I was just telling Jake that our players love coming here. It's a very comfortable place for us. I think the fans and the field are the two leading qualifiers in terms of what we want, and they're both fantastic here, so we're really excited to come back. Hopefully we'll have a good crowd come out and cheer us on against Japan. Obviously Japan is a big rivalry, and it's going to be a doozy. Both teams are gearing up, and they just qualified (for the 2019 World Cup). We're looking forward to the challenge of playing them.

Berhalter on U.S. national teams utilizing Pinnacle for training...

We view it as a great opportunity, and for the senior teams in particular because they move around a lot. Jill was there with me earlier, and we view it as a great opportunity to provide a world-class environment for the teams.

Ellis on seeing Pinnacle for the first time...

I was blown away. It's sometimes hard to host four national teams in the same venue, so that makes it great for these types of tournaments. But with all the technology and resources that are in there, plus the coaching education and rehab, it's mind blowing. It's something to be seen, for sure.

Berhalter on whether Pinnacle factors into the U.S. decision to play in Kansas City...

We have a matrix of factors that we look at when we're trying to pick where teams should play, with what optimizes the environment for the players and the team itself. First and foremost is the stadium and the field. We start with that, and we have a lot of commercial concerns also with TV times, etcetera, that we have to work into the equation. Weather becomes one as well. The training facility is definitely a component that we look at to make sure that teams have a great environment, and we always want that.

Ellis on how Pinnacle stacks up against the world's best training facilities...

Last summer I went to see Manchester City, Southampton and Everton (in England). The facility at Man City reminds me a lot of (Pinnacle) with the setup. The fields are centralized and you can view out over them. The science piece here makes this pretty special with the sports performance as well. I think it does stack up, and when you say "world-class," that's what I really feel it is because it's got everything there.

Sometimes the challenge is you have a great surface at the stadium, and you want the training fields to be just as pristine. That's your desire as a coach, and that's what we have here. So that lends itself to (optimal) training on the pitch for our players. You don't want to worry about health or anything in terms of surface. We'll have about four or five days to train here before our first game (on July 26), so it's going to be fantastic.

Ellis on the challenge of playing Japan...

They've had a little more experience playing together recently. They just went through their (World Cup) qualifying tournament, so they're a bit more familiar with each other. We've got players out in different markets, and we've only had a couple days of training at a time. I think we're going to figure it out. We've had a few injuries, but we're gradually getting a full compliment of players back. Hopefully at this tournament, we can use it as a time for us to really jell in time for World Cup qualifying in October.

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