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U.S. Soccer Wire: U.S. Soccer Rewards Arena with New Contract Through 2006


U.S. SOCCER ANNOUNCES NEW FOUR-YEAR CONTRACT FOR ARENA:  The U.S. Soccer Federation agreed to a new contract last week with U.S. Men’s National Team manager Bruce Arena, who will continue to guide U.S. Soccer’s Men’s National Team Program through 2006. Arguably the most accomplished coach in American soccer history, Arena’s four-year tenure has seen the Long Island native become the winningest coach in team history, while elevating the United States’ respect on the international stage. His achievements culminated in the USA’s historic quarterfinal finish at the 2002 World Cup in Korea/Japan.  With a four-year record of 34-18-14, Arena is the team’s all-time leader in victories and winning percentage (.621).  In addition, the team won a record 12 games in 2002, including a championship run at the 2002 CONCACAF Gold Cup and a quarterfinal run at the 2002 World Cup that featured victories over Portugal and Mexico.

U.S. MEN TO PLAY ARGENTINA IN MIAMI ON FEB. 8, JAMAICA IN KINGSTON ON FEB. 12: The U.S. Men's National Team will host two-time World Cup champion Argentina in an international friendly Saturday, February 8, 2003 at the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida.  Kickoff is set for 12 p.m. ET, and the match will be broadcast live on ESPN2.  Four days later, the USA will face Jamaica at the National Stadium in Kingston. Kickoff for the Feb.12 match is set for 2:30 p.m. ET.  Fans can follow both matches live online via ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker, presented by Philips Electronics. The United States holds a 2-4 lifetime record against Argentina, who are currently ranked fifth in the FIFA World Rankings. The Feb. 8 meeting will be the second ever on U.S. soil.  The teams' last met June 13, 1999 in Washington, D.C., when a Joe-Max Moore goal lifted the United States a 1-0 victory and their second straight win against their South American neighbors. The previous victory came four years earlier, when the United States shocked Argentina 3-0 on July 14, 1995, en route to a fourth place finish at the Copa America in Uruguay. Advance tickets ranging in price levels from $15 to $35 go on sale starting today at 12 p.m. ET at all South Florida Ticketmaster outlets (including FYE, Spec’s Music and Ricky’s Records), by phone (Ft. Lauderdale 954-523-3309; Miami 305-358-5885; West Palm Beach 561-966-3309) and on-line at www.ussoccer.com. Groups of 20 or more can order immediately through U.S. Soccer at 312-528-1249. The United States has never lost to Jamaica, holding a 7-0-5 record against the Reggae Boyz. Despite the unbeaten record, the USA has only one victory in five matches at "The Office" in Kingston, dating back more than eight years.

U.S. MNT TO RETURN TO SEATTLE TO MEET ASIAN CHAMPIONS JAPAN ON MARCH 29: The U.S. Men's National Team will host fellow World Cup finalists Japan at Seattle Seahawks Stadium on Saturday, March 29 in Seattle (live on ESPN2 at 1 p.m. PT).  Fans can follow the action live online via ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker, presented by Philips Electronics. The United States and Japan have met only one time at the senior international level, with Japan capturing a 3-1 victory on March 14, 1993 in Tokyo. The clash with Japan will be the first international soccer match hosted by the newly minted Seattle Seahawks Stadium. Tickets ranging in price levels from $20 to $70 go on sale starting today at 12 p.m. PT at all Ticketmaster outlets throughout Washington, Oregon and British Columbia, at the Seahawks Stadium ticket office, by phone (Seattle 206-628-0888; Tacoma 253-627-8497), and on-line at www.ussoccer.com. Groups of 20 or more can order through U.S. Soccer at 312-528-1290.

ONLINE VOTING FOR “BEST OF” AND CHEVROLET AWARDS CONTINUES: Fans have just one more week to make their voices heard as part of the online voting for U.S. Soccer’s first ever “Best of U.S. Soccer” awards, which continues at www.ussoccer.com through December 31. The inaugural series of 10 awards honors the standout performances of the calendar year in American soccer.  U.S. Soccer’s Chevy Athlete of the Year voting, however, continues until Jan. 6 in all four categories (Young Female, Young Male, Female and Male). As the oldest and most prestigious awards of their kind, U.S. Soccer’s Chevy Athlete of the Year awards date back to 1984 for the men and 1985 for the women, with the winners of the two major awards receiving vehicles from Chevrolet.  Check out all the award nominees here.

– U.S. MEN’S NATIONAL TEAM UPDATE –

U.S. MEN TO OPEN 2003 VERSUS CANADA AT LOCKHART STADIUM IN FT. LAUDERDALE: The U.S. Men’s National Team will open 2003 with an international match against Canada at Lockhart Stadium in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., on Saturday, Jan. 18 at 7:30 p.m. ET. The match against Canada is a rematch of the team’s 2002 CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinal clash on January 30 in Pasadena, Calif., which was won by the U.S. in penalty kicks after a well-played 0-0 draw. In their history, the U.S. and Canada have squared off against each other 25 times in a rivalry dating all the way back to 1925, with the U.S. holding a slight 9-8-8 advantage.  However, the United States has not lost to Canada in nine consecutive games, compiling a 5-0-4 mark in a stretch dating back more than 17 years to a 2-0 loss in Vancouver on April 2, 1985. Tickets ranging in price levels from $17 to $40 are on sale now at all South Florida Ticketmaster outlets (including FYE, Spec’s Music and Ricky’s Records) or by phone (Ft. Lauderdale: 954-523-3309; Miami: 305-358-5885; West Palm Beach: 561-966-3309).

“OUR WAY” DVD & VHS STILL AVAILABLE ONLINE AT ussoccerstore.com: The increasingly popular and high-selling limited-edition U.S. Men’s National Team DVD, "Our Way: The Exclusive Behind-the-Scenes Story of the USA's 2002 World Cup Journey,” is still available at ussoccerstore.com. “Our Way” gives fans the chance to relive virtually every key moment along the team’s historic run to the quarterfinals, from the moment they stepped off the plane to intense security in Seoul, to the unforgettable bus ride back to the hotel in which they cranked the volume of the onboard karaoke machine and served up their own version of Sinatra’s classic tune. Fans can go inside the U.S. locker room, team meetings and training sessions to witness the unique blend of talent, character, and determination that symbolized the U.S. performance in Korea. As well as highlights from all five matches, special interviews and never-before-seen exclusive footage, fans also get hilarious Outtakes and a Memorable Moments Highlight Reel (including all U.S. goals) for a total of 70 minutes of action. Both the DVD and VHS versions are priced at $30.

– U.S. WOMEN’S NATIONAL TEAM UPDATE –

HAMM WINS SECOND FIFA WORLD WOMEN’S PLAYER OF THE YEAR AWARD: U.S. Women’s National Team star Mia Hamm won FIFA's World Women’s Player of the Year award for the second straight time last week, while Ronaldo was honored for the third time for his eight goals at the 2002 World Cup that capped his comeback from injury. Seventy-seven national team coaches voted, with five points awarded for first place, three for second and one for third. With 161 points, Hamm was a clear-cut winner over German playmaker Birgit Prinz (96) and Chinese legened Sun Wen (58). Ronaldo, who led Brazil to the World Cup championship, also won in 1996 and 1997. German goalkeeper Oliver Kahn of Bayern Munich was second in the FIFA vote, while French midfielder and Real Madrid teammate Zinedine Zidane, who won the award in 1998 and 2000, finished third.

GHANA AND NIGERIA BOOK TICKETS FOR 2003 WOMEN’S WORLD CUP IN CHINA: Ghana and Nigeria have earned Africa's two berths into the 2003 Women's World Cup in China by virtue of their victories in the semifinals of the African Women's Championships, which are taking place in Warri and Oghara, Nigeria.  The Black Queens of Ghana, which defeated Cameroon, 3-2, and the Super Falcons of Nigeria, which defeated South Africa, 5-0, will meet for the African title on Saturday in Warri.  The addition of the Ghana and Nigeria, the same two countries which qualified from Africa for the 1999 Women's World Cup in the USA, means that 10 of the 16 teams have now been decided.  The Black Queens, which upset the Falcons 1-0 in group play, edged Cameroon in dramatic fashion in their semifinal, winning in overtime to earn their berth.  In the tournament finale, Nigeria beat Ghana 2-0 on goals by Perpetual Nkocha and Ekpo Effionwan. The breakdown of qualified teams appears below: 
Africa (2 of 2): Ghana, Nigeria.
Asia (1 of 3.5): China (host); dates/venues of qualifying tournament yet to be finalized.
CONCACAF (2 of 2.5): Canada, United States; Mexico will play the third place finisher in Asia
qualifying for a berth in China.
Europe (5 of 5): Germany, Norway, Russia, Sweden, France.
Oceania (0 of 1): Approximately 10 teams will compete in the OFC Women's World Cup
Qualifying Tournament in Australia in April of 2003.
South America (0 of 2): 10 teams will compete for two spots in South American qualifying in Peru in April of 2003.

U.S. WNT TO OPEN ROAD TO 2003 WWC VS. JAPAN ON JAN. 12 IN SAN DIEGO: The U.S. Women's National Team will open its 2003 schedule with a match against Japan on January 12, 2003, at Torero Stadium in San Diego, Calif.  The match, which will kick off at 1 p.m. PT, will represent the USA’s first game in its run to the 2003 Women’s World Cup in China. Tickets ranging in price levels from $20 to $45 are currently on sale at all Southern California Ticketmaster outlets (including Robinson’s-May and Wherehouse Music), by phone at 619-220-8497 and online at www.ussoccer.com.  Additionally, less than 100 VIP field-level seats at $150 each, where ticket holders get to keep their chair, will also go on sale at this time.  It will be the first of approximately 12 matches the USA will play before the 2003 Women’s World Cup. Torero Stadium, which seats 7,035, is the home of the Spirit in the WUSA and has undergone two phases of renovations to become one of the top soccer venues on the West Coast. The U.S. women are 13-0-1 all-time versus Japan and have never lost a match in California, going 12-0-1 dating back to 1996.

U.S. TO COMPETE IN FOUR NATIONS TOURNAMENT IN CHINA IN JANUARY: The U.S. Women's National Team will travel to China in January for a major international tournament featuring the top four teams in the world as each nation gears up for the 2003 Women’s World Cup. The USA, Norway, Germany and Women’s World Cup host China will clash in a series of three doubleheaders in three Chinese cities in the three provinces in the southwest region of the country. The Four Nations Tournament will kick off on Jan. 23 at a venue to be determined in the Zhejiang Province, as China faces Germany and the USA takes on Norway.  The teams will move to the Women’s World Cup venue Wuhan for the Jan. 26 matches that feature China vs. Norway and the USA vs. Germany.  The blockbuster tournament will finish in Shanghai, site of the 2003 Women’s World Cup Final, with rematches of the 1995 Women’s World Cup Final as Germany takes on Norway and the 1999 Women’s World Cup Final as the USA faces China on Jan. 29. The U.S. team will gain invaluable experience in what will be the team’s final visit to China before the Women’s World Cup, which will be held from Sept. 23-Oct. 11 in Shanghai, Hongkou, Hangzhou, Wuhan and Chengdu, facing three teams who not only have already qualified for the Women’s World Cup, but who are among the favorites to win the title.  The USA will also get a preview of the venues, travel and atmosphere they should encounter at the 2003 Women’s World Cup.

– YOUTH NATIONAL TEAM UPDATE –

UNDER-23 MNT SPLIT TWO-GAME SERIES WITH CANADA IN FT. LAUDERDALE: After falling 2-0 in the opening match of a two-game friendly series versus Canada on Dec. 19, the U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team rebounded with a 2-0 victory of their own for their first international win of the year on Dec. 21 in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Recent MLS signee and M.A.C. Hermann award winner Alecko Eskandarian scored both of the team’s goals and increased his team scoring lead to 14 points on six goals and two assists in 2002. Eskandarian’s first tally came in the 33rd minute, heading home a cross from David Testo to score from 10 yards out past Canadian goalkeeper Dennis Kindel. Testo and Eskandarian hooked up again in the second half, as the former University of Virginia standout received a nice throughball from the University of North Carolina forward, cut the ball to his left foot and slammed a shot past Kindel to give the U.S. their 2-0 margin of victory. In the first match, Canada forward Maycoll Canizalez scored off the rebound of a Kevin Harmse shot in the game's opening minute for a quick 1-0 lead, then midfielder Sita-Taty Matondo played a give-and-go with forward Rob Friend and scored on the return pass to give the Maple Leafs a 2-0 lead in the 20th minute. The U-23s finished with a 6-2-2 overall record on the year, including a 1-2-2 mark in international friendlies.

U.S. UNDER-18s TO TRAIN IN SAN DIEGO FROM JANUARY 2-8:  George Gelnovatch will lead his Under-18 Men’s National Team into their first training camp of the year from January 2-8 at the ARCO Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif.  Gelnovatch invited 22 players in for the camp that will include three matches against 1984 Regional Teams as part of a U.S. Youth Soccer Interregional competition being staged from January 3-6. The U-18s will play Region II on Jan. 3 at 3 p.m. PT, Region IV on Jan. 4 at 3 p.m. PT and Region III on Jan. 6 at 11 a.m. PT. Three of the team’s leading scorers from 2002 will return for the three matches, including Arturo Alvarez (7 goals, 1 assist), Adam Christman (5 goals and 1 assist) and Craig Capano (5 goals, 1 assist).  Eight other players will be making their first Under-18 National Team camp appearance.
Goalkeepers (2): Ryan Burke (Southern Maine Premier), Andrew Kartunen, (Irvine Strikers);
Defenders (8): Sam Brill (FC Greater Boston Bolts), Greg Dalby (San Diego Surf), Hunter Freeman (University of Virginia), William Hall (Eastmeadow Hawks), Adbul Kargbo (D.C. United U-18s), Patrick Phelan (Oakwood SC), Kareem Smith (Beaver Country Day H.S.), Michael Zaher (Premiere 86); 
Midfielders (7): Craig Capano (Chicago Fire – MLS), Isaac Collings (Syracuse Blitz Blizzard), Paul Johnson (University of Virginia), Peter Lowry (Irvine Strikers), David Roman (Pittsgrove Phantoms), Danny Vasquez (Miami, Fla.), Joe Vide (University of Virginia);
Forwards (5): Arturo Alvarez (Bear Creek United), Chad Barrett (West Side Metro Rangers), Adam Cristman (Richmond Strikers), Danny Karbassiyoon (Roanoke Stars), Nate Norman (Vardar III).

– AROUND THE SOCCER NATION –

CONCACAF EARNS ADDITIONAL HALF SPOT IN 2006 FIFA WORLD CUP: CONCACAF, the governing body of soccer in North and Central America, as well as the Caribbean, received an additional half spot in qualifying for the 2006 FIFA World Cup via an announcement last week by FIFA's Executive Committee, meeting in Madrid, Spain.  The half position brings CONCACAF's qualifying total to 3.5, with a playoff between the region's fourth place finisher in 2006 qualifying and the fifth-place finisher from Asia (who have 4.5 total positions).  With the Oceania region picking up automatic qualification for the first time, Europe (13) and South America (4) retained their automatic bid totals, but will no longer have a playoff position available to them.  Africa remained at five automatic entries.

USL RENAMES D3 PRO LEAGUE AS PRO SELECT LEAGUE FOR 2003 AND BEYOND: United Soccer Leagues announced last week the renaming of the D3 Pro League to Pro Select League as it enters its ninth year of play. The Pro Select League name, in part, dates back to the Pro and Select monikers used in 1996 when USL’s third division was split into two tiers (Pro and Select Leagues) with the anticipation of the Select League receiving Division II status the following year. The Select League was subsequently replaced the following year by the addition of the Second Division A-League (American Professional Soccer League), which had operated independently since 1990. With the addition of the A-League in 1997, USL re-branded its other two men’s leagues. The Pro League was renamed D3 Pro League to be representative of its Third Division status and the Premier League was re-dubbed Premier Development Soccer League, reflecting its position as North America’s top developmental soccer league. The PDSL simplified its name to Premier Development League as United Systems of Independent Soccer Leagues (USISL), as it was then known, became USL in 1999.

U.S. SOCCER SPOTLIGHT

PEAK PERFORMER:  He's been doing it all season long, and this week was no different. Brad
Friedel posted back-to-back shutouts for the third time this season, including a 1-0 shutout victory
over Manchester United on Sunday, which was Blackburn's first victory against United in eight years.
Earlier in the week, Friedel shutout Wigan to advance Blackburn into the Worthington Cup semifinals
where they will face ... Manchester United.

MARQUEE MATCH-UP: Although the games won't be played for approximately three years, the fourth-place World Cup qualifier from the CONCACAF region and the fifth-place finisher from Asia will square off late in 2005 for the 32nd and final berth in the 2006 World Cup in Germany.  Depending on who slips into that fourth-place position, the matches are guaranteed to be widely followed in the CONCACAF region.

QUOTABLE: 
“An excellent documentary about America's 2002 World Cup run."
- Under Review section of Sports Illustrated (Dec. 23, 2002).

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