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VALLEY/VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Sales Pitch On for Women's Soccer

April 26, 1998|JILL R. DORSON | SPECIAL TO NEWSDAY

SAN JOSE — An Olympic gold medal. A World Cup trophy. For most athletic teams, either of these accomplishments alone would translate into name recognition and national respect.

But the U.S. women's national soccer team, which has won both these honors, still plays in virtual anonymity.

"Every time we play in the States, it's important that we play well and recruit fans now for Women's World Cup '99," U.S. national team midfielder Kristine Lilly said. "Once fans see us play, they'll come back--and that's been proven before." The United States will host Women's World Cup '99.

When the U.S. national team won a gold medal at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, it played before the largest crowd ever, 76,489, to witness a women's sporting event. And still, two years later, as Women's World Cup '99 approaches, the team feels the need to sell the game.

And the hard sell is on. The team will play Argentina today at Spartan Stadium in San Jose. The game will be the second of two against Argentina--the first was Friday at Fullerton. The series marks the first time this year that the national team has played in the U.S. and it will kick off the campaign for U.S. Soccer's Women's World Cup '99, June 19-July 10.

While today's game is an exhibition, known in soccer terms as a friendly, it will be anything but. Coach Tony DiCicco is already appraising players in anticipation of cutting his roster to the 24 that will be invited to a residential camp in January.

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