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U.S. Soccer Wire: U.S. Women to Kick Off 2002 Nike U.S. Women's Cup on Sunday


WNT PUTS UNDEFEATED CUP RECORD TO TEST IN EIGHTH EDITION OF ANNUAL TOURNEY: The 2002 edition of the Nike U.S. Women’s Cup, the most prestigious women’s event conducted by U.S. Soccer, and one of the most respected women’s tournaments in the world, kicks off this weekend. The four-team, six-game competition will feature the U.S. Women’s National Team, as well as Australia, Italy and Russia. In the tournament’s opening match, the U.S. will take on Russia at the Mitchel Athletic Complex on Sunday, Sept. 29 at 4 p.m. ET (live on ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker, presented by Philips Electronics). Tickets for the tournament opener, which is also presented by Philips, range in price levels from $22 to $55 and are available now at all Ticketmaster outlets throughout the area (including The Wiz, Compact Disc World, Tower Records, HMV Record Stores and Filene’s) or by calling 631-888-9000 (Long Island) or 212-307-7171 (New York City). Groups of 20 or more can call the New York Power at 1-866-769-7849.

From there, the tournament heads south to North Carolina, where the U.S. Women’s National Team will play two games as part of doubleheaders at the recently opened SAS Park in Cary, N.C.  The U.S. Women will take on Australia on Wednesday, Oct. 2 (presented by Avaya) at 7:30 p.m. ET live on ESPN2, and finish the tourney against Italy on Saturday, Oct. 6 (presented by Chevrolet) at 2 p.m. ET live on ESPN2. Tickets for the N.C. doubleheaders, which range in price from $18 to $55, are now available at all Ticketmaster outlets throughout the Carolinas (including Kroger, Hecht's and FYE), by calling 919-834-4000 or going on-line at www.ticketmaster.com.  For groups of 20 or more, call 312-528-1249. Complete ticket information is available at ussoccer.com.

REVOLUTION WINS EASTERN CONFERENCE, FIRE CLAIMS LAST PLAYOFF SPOT: The Los Angeles Galaxy and New England Revolution will enter the 2002 MLS Cup Playoffs with the top two overall seeds and home-field advantage throughout the duration, following their respective Conference championships last weekend. The Galaxy edged San Jose 1-0 to win the series 3-1 and finish with a league-best 16-9-3 record and 51 points to win the West. Should the red-hot Revolution, who defeated the MetroStars 3-0 to win its first-ever Eastern crown, emerge from the quarterfinal and semifinal series, Scoring Champion Taylor Twellman's team will join the 1997 D.C. United squad as the lone MLS teams to play for an MLS Cup championship on its home field. Two other teams that needed favorable results to sneak into the playoffs – Kansas City and Chicago – both delivered this weekend. The Wizards earned a 1-1 tie at Colorado, while the Fire downed Columbus 2-1 at home yesterday to finish seventh.

– U.S. MEN’S NATIONAL TEAM UPDATE –

U.S. MEN CLIMB ANOTHER SPOT, SIT IN EIGHTH SPOT IN FIFA WORLD RANKINGS: Just one month after entering the Top 10 for the first time in team history at the number nine spot, the U.S. Men’s National Team continued its climb in the FIFA World Rankings by moving up one notch to an all-time high 8th, ahead of such powerhouses as Italy and England. Turkey moved up four spots to find itself in the Top 10 for the first time at 7th. There was no change at the top, with Brazil still leading the pack ahead of a strong group of European nations that includes France, Spain and Germany. The Brazilians, who reclaimed the top spot in the rankings in June after winning their fifth World Cup title, have 858 points, 84 points ahead of France, which moved up two spots on the strength of a successful start to its Euro 2004 qualifying campaign. September's rankings saw more significant gains within the Top 20, notably the Czech Republic, up 4 to 17, and Paraguay, up three to 16th. Other major moves include Libya (104, up 16), Wales (76, up 13) and Switzerland (54, up 11).

SANNEH SCORES FIRST GOAL IN NURNBERG’S 2-0 WIN, FRIEDEL SAVES PK IN WIN: The penalty spot would dictate terms for both of the USA's England-based international goalkeepers this past week.   Tottenham Hostpur fell to third place in the English Premier League after a Ruud Van Nistlerooy PK in the 63rd minute lifted Manchester United past Kasey Keller and Spurs at Old Trafford.  Meantime, Brad Friedel continued his World Cup form in defending against spot kicks, this time stoning Alan Smith midway in the second half to preserve Blackburn's 1-0 victory against Leeds.  With the win, Rovers climb into the top half of the table in the ninth position. Jovan Kirovksi made his debut appearance in the first team for Birmingham City, entering for the final ten minutes as City dropped a 1-0 decision to Middlesbrough.  Claudio Reyna's side has been unable to stem the tide, as Sunderland suffered their third consecutive scoreless defeat, a 2-0 loss to Newcastle.  Sunderland sit second from the bottom in the table, collecting just five points from seven matches. In the First Division, Eddie Lewis came on in the second half of Preston North End's 2-0 win against Derby County.  PNE remain undefeated on the season; however, they have only taken full points in two matches and currently hold the 12th spot in the table.  In the German Bundesliga, Tony Sanneh scored his first goal of the 2002-03 campaign, netting the game winner as FC Nurnberg felled VfL Wolfsburg 2-0.  The win was the second of the year for Sanneh's German club in six matches.  Hannover 96 earned a 2-2 draw with VfL Bochum, as Steve Cherundolo completed his seventh straight start.  Hannover are still in search of their first home victory of the season. Gregg Berhalter made his third straight start since joining Energie Cottbus, the side falling victim to league leaders Bayern Munich at the Olympiastadion in Munich. In the Dutch Eredivisie, John O'Brien and Ajax remained perfect for the new season, capturing their fifth win in a row against Roosendaal.  The Amsterdam side still sit behind PSV Eindhoven on goal differential.  At NAC Breda, Earnie Stewart is proving dangerous off the bench, this time netting his first goal of the campaign to secure his side’s 2-0 win against FC Twente.  The victory elevated NAC Breda to fourth place in advance of their showdown with Ajax this coming Sunday.  David Regis played the second 45 minutes in FC Troyes 1-0 loss to Nice; the club having just one win in eight matches.  Fellow U.S. defender Frankie Hejduk also saw action as a second-half sub, completing the final 24 minutes of FC St. Gallen's 2-2 draw home to Servette.

– U.S. WOMEN’S NATIONAL TEAM UPDATE –

HEINRICHS NAMES PHIL WHEDDON AS GOALKEEPER COACH FOR U.S. WNT: Phil Wheddon has been named the full-time goalkeeper coach for the U.S. Women’s National Team, head coach April Heinrichs announced last week. Wheddon joins the Women’s National Team staff after spending two years with the Boston Breakers of the WUSA as their top assistant and goalkeeper coach.  Wheddon will also assist Heinrichs with various other projects, including youth national teams, continuing coaching education units and symposiums. Prior to joining the Breakers, Wheddon was the goalkeeper coach for the MetroStars of Major League Soccer, where he trained Tim Howard, a member of the 2000 Olympic Team and one of the top goalkeepers in MLS.  Before his time in MLS, Wheddon was an assistant head coach and goalkeeper coach at Southern Connecticut State University, training both men’s and women’s goalkeepers.  He worked with the Owls for three years, helping the men’s team capture back-to-back Division II national titles in 1998 and 1999.

U.S. WNT AWAITS 2002 CONCACAF WOMEN’S GOLD CUP TO QUALIFY FOR CHINA 2003: The U.S. Women’s National Team’s road to the 2003 Women’s World Cup in China took its final shape last month with Trinidad & Tobago becoming the final team to qualify for the USA’s four-team group at the upcoming 2002 CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup. The tournament, which is serving as both the women’s championship of this region and as the qualifying tournament for the 2003 Women’s World Cup, is being played from Oct. 27 to Nov. 9 in the Los Angeles area, Seattle and Victoria, B.C. The two finalists at the 2002 Women’s Gold Cup will automatically qualify for the 2003 Women’s World Cup, while the winner of the tournament’s third-place game will qualify for a Women’s World Cup qualifying playoff against the third place team from Asia. The eight-team tournament, which features two groups of four teams each, will see the U.S. face Trinidad & Tobago, Mexico and Panama.  The U.S. will open the tournament on Sunday, Oct. 27 against Mexico at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, before taking on Trinidad & Tobago on Tuesday, Oct. 29 at Titan Stadium in Fullerton, Calif.  The USA’s third group match will be played on Saturday, Nov. 2 at Safeco Field in Seattle against Panama. Should the U.S. qualify for the semifinals, the team will stay in Seattle, as both semifinals will be played as a doubleheader at Safeco Field on Wednesday, Nov. 6.  Those semifinal matches will decide the two automatic CONCACAF berths at the 2003 Women’s World Cup, which is being played in China from Sept. 24 to Oct. 11, 2003.  The Gold Cup Championship and third-place games will be played on Saturday, Nov. 9 in Pasadena, Calif., at the Rose Bowl.  All of the tournament matches are being played as doubleheaders and will be televised live on Fox Sports World and Fox Sports World Espanol. In the other four-team qualifying group, Canada will play host to Costa Rica, Jamaica and Haiti in Victoria.

– 2002 LAMAR HUNT U.S. OPEN CUP UPDATE –

CREW TO HOST GALAXY IN 2002 U.S. OPEN CUP FINAL ON OCT. 24 LIVE ON FSW: The MLS’ Columbus Crew will host the defending champion Los Angeles Galaxy for the 2002 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final at Crew Stadium on October 24 at 7 p.m. ET in a match broadcast live on Fox Sports World and FSW Espanol. The Galaxy will be putting an eight-game Open Cup unbeaten streak on the line (matching the Chicago Fire from 2000-2001) and have never lost a tournament match on the road (4-0-1), while the Crew haven't dropped an Open Cup game on their home-soil (6-0-1). The U.S. Open Cup Final returns to Columbus, Ohio and Crew Stadium for the first time since 1999, when the Rochester Raging Rhinos (A-League) blanked the Colorado Rapids 2-0 for the title on September 14.  This is also the fourth time that the 89-year-old tournament has held a final in the state of Ohio. [NOTE TO MEDIA: MLS credentials will not be honored at the 2002 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final on Oct. 24.  Members of the media wishing to attend the event must contact the U.S. Soccer Communications Department at 312-808-1300 or communications@ussoccer.org for accreditation.]

– AROUND THE SOCCER WORLD –

FRANCE TO HOST 2003 FIFA CONFEDERATIONS CUP: FIFA announced today that the 2003 FIFA Confederations Cup will take place in France from June 18-29, 2003.  The decision was made during the FIFA Executive Committee meeting in Zurich, Switzerland.  The eight-team tournament will feature champions of the six confederations – France (UEFA & defending FIFA Confederations Cup champions), Colombia (CONMEBOL), Cameroon (CAF), United States (CONCACAF), Japan (AFC) and New Zealand (OFC) – will compete alongside world champions Brazil and one other invited team.  The matches will be played in two different areas of France – the Parisian area (Saint-Denis and Parc des Princes) and the Rhone-Alps region (Lyon and Saint-Etienne). The Executive Committee decided to start the bidding process for the 2004 FIFA Futsal World Championship and Under-19 Women's World Championship as well as the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

MLS ATTENDANCE RISES FOR SECOND CONSECUTIVE SEASON, AGAIN TOPS 15,000 MARK: For the second consecutive season, Major League Soccer's attendance average increased by more than five percent. Boosted by an intense playoff race that concluded yesterday with the Chicago Fire's fourth consecutive sellout, the league's 2002 regular season campaign averaged 15,822, a six percent improvement over 2001's overall average of 14,961. With the 2002 MLS Cup Playoffs beginning on Wednesday, more than 19 million fans have enjoyed MLS action during the League's first seven seasons. Following 2001's increase of nine percent over the prior year, the 2002 average of 15,818 surpassed 15,000 for the first time since the league's 1996 Inaugural campaign. Each of the league's 10 teams topped 10,000 fans per game, also for the first time since 1996. The 15% increase during the last two years brings the league's seven-year regular-season average to 14,936. Three teams enjoyed double-digit increases in 2002, as the Colorado Rapids led MLS in attendance for the first time, averaging 20,690 fans per game, an increase of more than 25% over last year. The defending champion San Jose Earthquakes improved their average more than 13%, while the Kansas City Wizards became the first team in MLS' brief history to increase its average in four consecutive seasons, reaching 12,255 fans per game at Arrowhead Stadium, the team's highest average since 1996.

KICKERS, RAMPAGE ADVANCE TO A-LEAGUE FINAL THIS WEEKEND IN MILWAUKEE: The phrase “defense wins championships” could not have been more apt in the conclusions of the A-League Conference Finals this weekend, as the Richmond Kickers advanced via penalty kicks against the defending two-time champion Rochester Raging Rhinos and the Milwaukee Rampage eliminated the Vancouver Whitecaps in overtime. Tied 1-1 after the first leg of the Eastern Conference series, the Kickers and Rhinos finished the second match 0-0, requiring 30 minutes of overtime and eventually penalty kicks to decide the series. Rochester’s Greg Simmonds missed from the spot in the sudden death ninth round, giving Richmond the opportunity to take the win on the second half of the round. Kickers goalkeeper Ronnie Pascale put his shot past Rhinos goalkeeper Pat Onstad for the win. In the Western Conference, the Rampage and Whitecaps resumed their 0-0 series in Milwaukee with the Whitecaps taking the lead with a goal from Niall Thompson on an assist from Steve Kindel in the 41st minute. Milwaukee’s defense, which had allowed just two goals including Thompson’s in four games, stood firm and provided the win with two goals from defender Matt Bobo, who leveled the score in the 56th minute and notched the series-winner 11 minutes into overtime. The Rampage will play host to Richmond at the Milwaukee Rampage Sports Complex on Saturday (Sept. 28) at 7 p.m. CT live on Fox Sports World.

SOUTH CRUSHES NORTH 6-1 IN FIRST EVER 2002 WUSA ALL-STAR GAME IN PORTLAND: Washington Freedom rookie forward Abby Wambach tallied two goals and one assist to claim the MVP award and lead the South All-Stars to a dominating 6-1 victory over the North All-Stars in front of 14,208 fans at the 2002 WUSA All-Star Game at PGE Park in Portland, Ore., this weekend. The North squad jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the 12th minute when Philadelphia's Marinette Pichon, the 2002 WUSA Most Valuable Player slotted a shot past Carolina goalkeeper Kristin Luckenbill. The South countered, rattling off six unanswered goals, including both scores by Wambach. San Diego's Shannon MacMillan and Atlanta's Charmaine Hooper each registered a goal and two assists for the South, while Washington's Mia Hamm also recorded two assists in the match.

A NIGHT OF CHAMPIONS TO KICK OFF 2002-03 MISL CAMPAIGN: A night of champions will kick off the 2002-03 Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL) campaign with two match-ups on Saturday, Sept. 28, as the Milwaukee Wave (2001-02 MISL Regular Season Champion) visit the San Diego Sockers (2001 World Indoor Soccer League Regular Season Champion), while the defending MISL Champion Philadelphia Kixx travel to meet last year's final WISL Champion Dallas Sidekicks. Each of the eight MISL teams will play a 36-game 2002-03 schedule until Mar. 23, with the playoffs set for the week of Mar. 24. The MISL Conference Alignment for this season will have the Western Conference composed of the Sidekicks, Kansas City Comets, Milwaukee Wave and the San Diego Sockers, while the Eastern Conference will have the Baltimore Blast, Cleveland Force, Harrisburg Heat and the Philadelphia Kixx. For more information on the MISL, visit www.misl.net.

U.S. SOCCER SPOTLIGHT

PEAK PERFORMER: As she did all throughout her rookie WUSA season and also with her stints with the U.S. Women’s National Team, forward Abby Wambach showed that she belongs on the field and can lead a team to victory. Wambach had two goals and an assist in the South’s convincing 6-1 win over the North in the first ever WUSA All-Star Game in Portland this weekend, and looks to be a possible starter up top alongside Mia Hamm when the U.S. takes the field for the 2002 Nike U.S. Women’s Cup this weekend and prepares for the 2002 Women’s Gold Cup next month.

MARQUEE MATCH-UP: With the perennial A-League champion Rochester Raging Rhinos being dispatched on penalty kicks by the Richmond Kickers and the favored Vancouver Whitecaps being edged in overtime by the Milwaukee Rampage this weekend, the 2002 A-League Final will give both teams a chance at their second league title. Richmond won both the USISL Premier League title and U.S. Open Cup back in 1995, while the Rampage took the A-League title in 1997. The match, which will be broadcast live on Fox Sports World, will take place on Saturday (Sept. 28) at 7 p.m. CT from Milwaukee Rampage Sports Complex.

SOCCER SHOCKER: A month ago, who would’ve thought that the New England Revolution would make a run to steal the Eastern Conference championship? Well, that’s exactly what they did, capping their 2002 season with a 5-0-1 undefeated run in their last six games, including a 3-0 win over the NY/NJ MetroStars in their final game this weekend. The big home win lifted them to the top spot in the East with a 12-14-2 record and 38 points (and a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Columbus Crew), where they will now have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs up to and including the 2002 MLS Cup at Gillette Stadium on Oct. 20 should they advance that far.

QUOTABLE:
“We still believed that we could get the job done today.  At the end of the day, it was still a group of guys that hung in there. The goal all along was that we felt that if we could get in the playoffs, we could make a good run at the (championship).  That is the way these guys see things."
- Chicago head coach Bob Bradley, after the Fire clinched the final playoff spot with a 2-1 win over Columbus, capping a regular season plagued by injuries and earning Chicago its fifth consecutive spot in post-season play since they joined MLS in 1998.

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