Champs won't stay idle for long

Pre-Olympics tour likely

indoor match in D.C. set

Women's World Cup

July 12, 1999|By Lowell E. Sunderland | Lowell E. Sunderland,SUN STAFF

Unlike the 1991 U.S. team that won the first women's world soccer championship, arrived at New York's Kennedy airport in anonymity and disbanded for nearly a year, this year's World Cup champions will go neither unsung nor unemployed for long.

Many, if not all, will regroup later this year to begin training for the September 2000 Olympics in Australia -- which, incidentally, could be the last international hurrah for as many as seven or eight American stars now in their late 20s and early 30s.

Also, no schedule has been announced, but the U.S. team assuredly will put on another buildup tour, a la this year's, before flying off to Sydney in quest of another gold medal.

One report out of the Cup's final week had the U.S. team, Norway, China and Brazil -- the four finalists -- talking about trying to put on a tour in several nations where women's soccer has not caught on big.

And, not 24 hours after the extroverted Brandi Chastain's penalty kick gave the Americans their second title in the Rose Bowl, newspapers in this region carried ads for something of a redux for at least some of the tournament's biggest names.

That would be in an indoor match pitting the "All-American Soccer Stars vs. The World" at Washington's MCI Center on Nov. 20. Tickets go on sale tomorrow. It's unclear if that's a one-afternoon thing or part of a tour.

Among American participants: forwards Mia Hamm, defender and captain Carla Overbeck, midfielder and co-captain Julie Foudy, defensive midfielder Michelle Akers, midfielder Kristine Lilly, goalkeeper Briana Scurry and flank defenders Chastain and Joy Fawcett.

No foreign players were named. But you can bet after the Cup crowds and positive reception that most foreign players, win or lose, found amazing, as well as enthralling, promoters should have no trouble bringing back many "names."

Pro league on way?

The Women's World Cup's box-office success whetted the desire of American players and their coaches for a professional league. That date could be 2001.

Coach Tony DiCicco has been saying since last year, at least, that without a league, the Americans can continue to be good but not dominate, given what other countries, such as Brazil and Germany, are doing with training and league competition.

Gone, DiCicco told reporters in Washington during the buildup to the U.S. team's quarterfinal at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium, are the days when U.S. college players can automatically beat the world. Example: Forward Danielle Fotopolous, who broke Hamm's college scoring records, made this year's team but hardly played.

U.S. Soccer Federation officials began examining the concept of a women's league before the Cup began. Because of the unprecedented Cup gate, potential sponsors should be willing at least to talk about the idea, which is major progress. Another proposal for a league by Anson Dorrance, North Carolina's coach and DiCicco's predecessor as national team coach, was shelved for lack of federation support.

Before dismissing the idea because of, among other things, a seemingly rather small pool of professional-caliber players, consider:

U.S. feeder systems are cranking out female players in unparalleled numbers -- 7.5 million girls playing, admittedly most of them young. But more colleges have women's teams than men's teams now, and players seem unlikely to diminish either in numbers or in skill, thanks to Title IX.

Unlike Major League Soccer, which can afford only undiscovered or over-the-hill foreign players, a U.S. women's league would be a likely magnet for the best talent from abroad. Unlike their highly compensated male counterparts, most foreign women's players are really semipros.

Pub Date: 7/12/99

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