SEOUL, Korea (Friday, May 24, 2002) - The U.S. Men touched down in Korea at 4:59 p.m. local time – one minute ahead of the team’s scheduled arrival - tonight at Incheon International Airport in Incheon, Korea. The team’s arrival was the news of the day in Korea, and the worldwide media converged on Incheon International Airport to see Bruce Arena’s team. More than 75 media members greeted the U.S. MNT as they exited the plane – and many more waited just outside the baggage claim area, including media from Korea, USA, Spain, Japan, Italy, France, Brazil, Mexico, Great Britain and more. Once the team went through customs and the baggage claim area, the players were whisked through the concourse area to the team bus. Approximately 500 officers from the Korean National Police formed a human tunnel, allowing the players to make a quick exit from the concourse to the team bus. Nearly 200 more National Police awaited the team as they exited the concourse and were guided to the bus. The U.S. bus and a 15-passenger van that contained team staff received a police escort from Incheon International Airport to the team hotel. The escort was made up of two police cars, two police motorcycles, a large Chevy Suburban that contained 8 SWAT Team members and three helicopters that followed the U.S. convoy all the way to Seoul. Joining in on the 45-minute trek from Incheon to Seoul were two cars carrying crews from two Korean television stations. One brave cameraman even stood out of the sunroof with the car driving nearly 65 mph to film the U.S. team bus.
KOREAN WAR VETERANS SALUTE U.S.: In a touching tribute to the United States at the airport, a group of veterans of the Korean War greeted the team with a sign reading: "Welcome USA. USA Supported Korea For Korean War, Korea Now Supports U.S. Team. Good Luck!"
BEASLEY THE BIRTHDAY BOY:U.S. midfielder DaMarcus Beasley celebrated his 20th birthday today – with much of that time spent on an airplane. Beasley finally blew out the candles on his cake after the team’s dinner at the J.W. Marriott. Beasley, the youngest player on this year’s World Cup Team, will not be the youngest player ever on a World Cup squad as that honor belongs to Joseph Martinelli, who was 17 years, 279 days old at the 1934 World Cup. The U.S. World Cup Team now has two 20-year-olds, including Landon Donovan (who turned 20 in March). Donovan has teamed with Beasley at the Under-17, Under-20, Under-23 and full national team level. Beasley is one of the only U.S. players to play with the U.S. Under-17s, Under-20s, Under-23s and Men’s National Team before turning 20.
POLAND ARRIVES IN SOUTH KOREA ON THURSDAY:The Polish National Team, who the U.S. will face on June 14 in both teams’ final first round game, arrived in Korea on Thursday to a huge reception from the locals. Poland opens play against the hosts South Korea on June 4.
LEAVING ON A JET PLANE: After getting three days off following the “Nike Road to Korea”, the U.S. Men’s National Team regrouped at J.F.K. Airport mid-morning on Thursday for the direct flight to Seoul. The flight was delayed and eventually took off 40 minutes late. Backgammon, GameBoys and movies were the popular ways to pass time on the 14-hour flight. Meanwhile, Sports Illustrated cover boy Clint Mathis slept nearly the entire flight.
IMPORTANT SEOUL NUMBERS NOW IN “MEDIA ONLY SECTION”: Important media information numbers have been added to the “Media Only" section of ussoccer.com. To register for the “Media Only" section visit ussoccer.com and click the “media log-in” button from ussoccer.com’s World Cup Plus section.
FIFA TO ANNOUNCE REFEREE ASSIGNMENTS ON SATURDAY AT 5 p.m. LOCAL TIME: The announcement of the referees and assistant referees for the first 32 matches at the World Cup will be postponed until 5 p.m. local time on Saturday (May 25). Originally, the decision was to be announced on Friday (May 24).
The announcements come following the conclusion of the FIFA Referee’s Committee. Only the referees for the first 32 matches will be announced at this time, with the final 16 first round games to be announced at a later time.
The 72 match officials selected for the 2002 FIFA World Cup were chosen based on their performance ratings over the past few years. Not more than one referee was selected from any one national association.
U.S. referee Brian Hall, who is the first U.S.-born official ever selected to referee the world’s greatest sporting event, is scheduled to referee a first-round match in Japan. Hall has been a Major League Soccer referee since the league’s inception in 1996. He reached the pinnacle of world officiating in 1992, when, at the age of 31, he was named to US Soccer’s International Panel of FIFA referees. As a FIFA Referee, Hall has traveled to 27 different countries to apply his trade.