Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

World Cup Fever: Will U.S. Remain Immune? National Team Hopes Interest Will Kick In

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

World Cup Fever: Will U.S. Remain Immune? National Team Hopes Interest Will Kick In

Article excerpt

Try to imagine this: The world's most important football tournament is only a few months away. But less than a fifth of the people in the country know anything about it.

Couldn't happen in the good, old US of A, you say. Some people might not know who the president is, but Americans aren't stupid. They know when it's time to get the Super Bowl parties and office pools lined up.

Maybe Americans know their football, but they appear to be a bit slow catching on to the rest of the world's football.

The world championship of soccer - football as it's known virtually everywhere else - is coming to the United States this summer. And many Americans still seem to be in the dark about something Africans, Asians, Europeans and South Americans are going bonkers over.

A Lou Harris poll taken in February indicated that only 18 percent of Americans knew that the World Cup - a quadrennial competition that attracts upwards of a billion television viewers worldwide - would be held this year. Only 20 percent knew that it would be contested in the United States.

The 24-team tournament will begin June 17 in Chicago with defending champion Germany playing Bolivia.

The United States, as host country, will participate for only the third time in 44 years. The Americans will open against Switzerland on June 18 at the Silverdome in Pontiac, Mich.

So it was a bit of missionary work that brought St. Louisan Mike Sorber and two of his U.S. national team mates here this week.

Sorber, John Doyle and Peter Vermes appeared at an autograph session/skills demonstration at Aquinas-Mercy High School, Sorber's alma mater.

The three players, who see their roles as Johnny Appleseeds of soccer in the United States, all are confident that Americans will get caught up in World Cup fever.

"When it comes to big shows, Americans follow what comes here," said Vermes, 27, a forward from Delran, N.J. Vermes has been a national-team regular since 1988 but will not be on the final World Cup roster.

"Plus, Americans are very patriotic," Vermes said. "They'll get behind their team."

Doyle, 28, a defender from Fremont, Calif., is one of those glass-is-half-full types. …

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