U.S. Soccer: Its Near Future Is Right Now At The World Cup

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U.S. Soccer: Its Near Future Is Right Now At The World Cup
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Alexi Lalas had it right.

The United States had to beat Slovenia, and if the U.S. team couldn't do so, it had no business being in the World Cup, said the free-spirited Lalas, a onetime World Cupper and a mainstay of American soccer for more than two decades.

Well, the U.S. team didn't beat Slovenia; it tied the Slovaks 2-2 Friday, which was the preferred option if the United States couldn't win. But a tie comes close to being a loss for U.S. team.

It was a distressing way to showcase soccer U.S. style, so much so that the United States is basically back to Ground Zero in its development of the sport. Its program has a lot more building to do.

Since the World Cup was played in the United States in the summer of '94, the U.S. Soccer Federation has made trying to put life into American soccer its priority.

Under the guidance of several men, the Federation has poured millions into youth programs across the country and helped strengthen college programs. It has played a part in starting a professional league here, a league that brought soccer legends like David Beckham to the country in an effort to increase the sport's profile.

All of these moves were supposed to benefit soccer in America.

Now, it was time to show how much U.S. soccer had progressed, and the best place to show it was on the biggest stage in sports: the World Cup. Striker Landon Donovan, perhaps the best U.S. player ever, defender Jay DeMerit and goalkeeper Tim Howard were expected to lead the Americans deep into Cup play.

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