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U.S., Mexico Agree to Play in Soccer's Copa America

October 14, 1994|GRAHAME L. JONES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The national soccer teams of the United States and Mexico have agreed to compete in the Copa America, or South American Championship, next June in Uruguay.

Jack Warner, president of CONCACAF, told South American Football Confederation leaders on Thursday in Asuncion, Paraguay, that the countries had accepted their invitations.

Both teams played in the 1993 Copa America in Ecuador, where the U.S. team was eliminated in the first round. Mexico advanced to the championship game but lost to Argentina.

The tournament will also feature Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Peru, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela.

The draw to divide the teams for first-round play will be held Dec. 9 in Punta del Este, Uruguay.

Meanwhile, a patchwork U.S. team leaves Saturday for Saudi Arabia, where it will play the host nation in Dhahran on Wednesday.

Unable to get the release of most of his Europe-based stars, U.S. Coach Bora Milutinovic has called on some pre-World Cup veterans and also has included two surprise newcomers.

Named to the U.S. roster for the first time Thursday were defender Gregg Berhalter, 21, of Tenafly, N.J., and 17-year-old Maurice Ligeon of Chesapeake, Va.

Berhalter was captain of the U.S. under-20 team that competed in the 1993 World Youth Championship in Australia. He left the University of North Carolina this year to sign with FC Zwolle in the Dutch second division.

The New York-born Ligeon is a defender on the youth team of Club Brugge in the Belgian first division.

Among the veterans recalled to the U.S. national team for the one-game trip are defender John Doyle and midfielders Janus Michallick and Chad Deering.

According to a report on "Futbol de Primera," a national Spanish-language radio soccer show, Milutinovic has signed a new 3 1/2-year contract to remain as U.S. national coach through the 1998 World Cup in France.

However, U.S. Soccer Federation President Alan Rothenberg Thursday said the report was "premature."

"It's not quite accurate," Rothenberg said. "Bora and I have had a couple of very, very good meetings and, as I've said, I want him back, I expect him to be back, I'm optimistic he'll be back.

"The negotiations are moving very positively but they're not done yet."

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