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San Diego is pushing forward with its bid to serve as a host of the World Cup soccer championships in 2018 or 2022.

Last week, a city official and sports booster traveled to New York City to make their case in front officials who are trying to bring the World Cup to the United States. Mayor Jerry Sanders held a press conference promoting the effort today, and the City Council will discuss the city’s bid tomorrow, although it’s not clear whether a new or half-century-old stadium will greet the world’s top soccer teams.

The city is one of 27 finalists in the running to host games if the United States wins its bid for the cup tournament. Officials behind the American bid will cut that number to 18 within about six weeks.

Then, in December 2010, World Cup officials with the Federation Internationale de Football Association, or FIFA, will decide if the United States will get the cup. If it does, 12-14 cities will host games across the country.

Carolyn Wormser, the city’s director of special events, and Alan Kidd, president of the San Diego Hall of Champions Sports Museum, met with U.S. bid officials last week. Wormser said the officials downplayed the uncertain status of Qualcomm Stadium, which will turn 50 in 2017.

The Chargers have been pushing to replace Qualcomm since 2002, and the latest efforts focus on building a new stadium downtown.

Wormser said the officials behind the U.S. bid told her that “almost every major city between now and, potentially, 2022 will have stadium questions. That’s one of the reasons they’re selecting 18 cities that move forward. They fully recognize that dynamics and circumstances within cities will change.”

Ultimately, she said, 12-14 cities will host the cup games if the U.S. is granted the right to hold the tournament. Those cities, she said, would be selected in 5-6 years.

The U.S. last served as host of the World Cup in 1994.

The officials behind the U.S. bid estimate that hosting the cup could bring $350 million-$500 million to a city. But San Diego would have to pay an estimated $12 million to $15 million in costs.

A city report says the San Diego Sports Commission, a booster group, will pay for costs of the bidding process over the next five years if San Diego moves forward. If the city wins the bid, the tourist industry will pay costs so the city won’t have to, the report says.

Wormser said the sports commission paid for her travel expenses to meet with the U.S. bid officials.

In terms of publicity, San Diego got started today with the Sanders press conference, where the mayor urged residents to sign an online petition supporting San Diego’s bid.

“Some cities started doing this a month and a half ago, and some are just getting ready,” said Jurgen Mainka, spokesman for the USA Bid Committee.

As of this morning, 2,390 people had signed San Diego’s petition. Atlanta, by contrast, has 13,574 signatures.

Officials behind the U.S. bid will take the online petition results into account when they make their decision about which cities will move forward.

Correction: A previous version of this post innaccurately reported that San Diego played host to World Cup games in 1994. We relied on incorrect information contained in a city of San Diego staff report. We regret the error.

— RANDY DOTINGA

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