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Friday, 14 June, 2002, 20:56 GMT 21:56 UK
USA's footballing boost
Steve Sampson
Sampson guided the USA in 1998

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Former US national team coach Steve Sampson believes the American public will now sit up and take notice of the team after qualifying for the knockout stages of the World Cup.

The time difference means all the USA games have taken place between midnight and 0600 BST back home.

It has hardly been the tournament to finally grab America's soccer public by the throat - despite the remarkable win over fancied Portugal.

But now with them in the last 16, Sampson believes people would begin to wake up and smell the coffee.

DaMarcus Beaseley plays in the MLS
Beasley is a product of Major League Soccer
"Qualifying is a magnificent achievement and it will help promote the sport back in the United States," he told BBC Sport Online.

"Americans are only happy with winners and they don't care how ugly it is as long as you win.

"The game could use a little bit of an injection at this point," added Sampson, who was head coach of the US team at France 98 and assistant coach to Bora Milutinovic for the 1994 tournament on home turf.

USA 94 was supposed to finally kick-start American enthusiasm in the game, but the sport remains dwarfed by America's big four passions - basketball, baseball, ice hockey and American football.

But Sampson, the first American-born coach to make the US national team staff, insists giant strides have still been made.

Steve Sampson discusses tactics with captain Tom Dooley in 1998
Sampson discusses tactics with captain Tom Dooley in 1998
"We at least now have a professional league - Major League Soccer - and many players such as Landon Donovan, Clint Mathis, DaMarcus Beasley have all come out of that league.

"When we beat Portugal and draw with South Korea, there were six or seven MLS players on the field at the time.

"So at least we now have a league where the younger players can hone their skills and develop as professionals and if you are exceptional by American standards you can give it a shot in Europe, which a lot of the players have done."

Six of the American squad currently ply their trade in England, with another six based elsewhere in Europe.

Many more of the US-based players are putting themselves in the shop window at this tournament.

American success at club level may raise a flicker of interest in the USA but Sampson believes soccer will now be taken seriously.


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GROUP D
  P GD PTS
SOUTH KOREA 3 +3 7
USA 3 -1 4
PORTUGAL 3 +2 3
POLAND 3 -4 3

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