When the FIFA World Cup of Soccer was held in 2014, Bethlehem’s ArtsQuest had a large-scale viewing party, showing the United States’ games and a number of other key matches on a jumbo television screen at its SteelStacks campus.
Turnout exceeded even the most hopeful expectations the arts and cultural organization had for the event, with thousands of people turning out for the games, including more than 8,000 for the first U.S. game.
With the World Cup returning June 14-July 15 next year, ArtsQuest already was planning a big SoccerFest celebration for next year’s games.
Then a giant monkey wrench got thrown into the works Tuesday night when the U.S. men’s soccer team failed to qualify for the international competition. It’s the first time the team failed to qualify for the World Cup since 1986.
“We had already begun planning the event,” said Curt Mosel, chief operating officer for ArtsQuest.
And as unlikely as the scenario was, Mosel said, ArtsQuest was prepared for it and had discussed what would happen if the U.S. team didn’t make it.
The good news is, the show will go on.
“The Lehigh Valley is a melting pot of diverse cultures,” Mosel said.
It is home to many recent immigrants from countries with strong soccer fandoms and teams that did qualify for the World Cup – held every four years.
“We still plan on showing the event, it might just be something with a different structure,” Mosel said.
For example, rather than renting the jumbo screen like it did in 2014, ArtsQuest may simply use its existing large LED screen in the Levitt Pavilion.
That is the screen on which most of the soccer games ArtsQuests streams are televised.
It’s where about 50 soccer fans watched the U.S. men’s team lose Tuesday night in a qualifying match against Trinidad and Tobago.
Mosel said the event may be smaller, but it is also an opportunity to make it more diverse, perhaps highlighting the food and culture of the countries whose teams are playing.
He said ArtsQuest may also seek out sponsors from business owners of different ethnicities that match teams still in the game.
Mosel said the World Cup schedule won’t be finalized until Dec. 1, when the organization will start planning the details of how to put together a non-Team U.S.A-centered soccer celebration.