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World Cup sparks US interest in beautiful game

In the capital of a country where baseball, basketball and American football remain king, the World Cup is granting exposure to a sport which is often viewed as a poor relation despite the fact that it remains the biggest sport in terms of participation in America.

sports Updated: Jun 19, 2010 11:08 IST

Half-time and things are looking bleak for the United States as they trail Slovenia 2-0 in their vital World Cup match.

The owner of the Lucky Bar feels the need to lift the spirits of 250 supporters crammed into the pub and springs into the action.

Soon Bruce Springsteen's "Born In the USA" is blaring out before the owner grabs a microphone to exhort his customers: "Hey, wait, it's not over."

The ESPN television match commentator is in agreement. "If they can score one goal, Slovenia will be a little bit shaky".

Sam Spencer, a 21-year-old student who has played football since he could walk, is refusing to give up hope.

"If North Korea can score one goal against Brazil, we can score two goals against Slovenia," Spencer says.

Two minutes later, Spencer's optimism is repaid as the Americans score, and the bar breaks out chant in unison: "U-S-A! U-S-A!." By the time the 90 minutes are up, the US has clawed their way back to 2-2 and a share of the spoils.

In the capital of a country where baseball, basketball and American football remain king, the World Cup is granting exposure to a sport which is often viewed as a poor relation despite the fact that it remains the biggest sport in terms of participation in America.

"Soccer in the US is not big but there is a culture. It's growing because all the kids play soccer," says Bill Klotzbucher.

Yet according to Spencer, America will be major power eventually.

"It's still a kid sport because all kids play soccer ... We will wake-up. We dominate Olympics and many other sports. Our day will come."

If the comments of a soldier watching the USA-England match at an army base in Afghanistan last week are anything to go by, that day might be some way off.

"I didn't know there was a World Cup of football," the American said, evidently confusing his domestic sport of gridiron with the festival of soccer watched by billions across the globe every four years.