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A Look At The U.S. World Cup Team

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A Look At The U.S. World Cup Team

A Look At The U.S. World Cup Team

A Look At The U.S. World Cup Team

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It will be a worldly U.S. squad at the World Cup in South Africa next month: 17 of the 23 players selected for the national team currently play for European professional teams, and two others play in Mexico.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

The World Cup is just a couple of weeks away and the U.S. national team has picked its players. The final list of 23 was announced today at the headquarters of ESPN in Connecticut. The network is betting big on the World Cup and working hard to excite potential viewers, as NPR's Mike Pesca reports.

MIKE PESCA: The headline should probably be something like this: Buddle and Gomez in; Ching Out. But the real news is that the announcement of the U.S. roster is a headline at all. ESPN lined up Herculez Gomez, Edson Buddle and all 21 of their teammates in a grassy patch painted like a soccer field in the middle of the network's Bristol, Connecticut campus.

Gomez, who will likely provide offensive sizzle off the bench, was finding the events of the last 24 hours hard to process.

Mr. HERCULEZ GOMEZ (Member, 2010 U.S. Men's World Cup Team): Even when they told me, I was just like, wow, really? So, you know, I was, I think, more nervous standing there outside, you know, now than I was in last night's game.

PESCA: In that game, Gomez's header tied the Czech Republic before the U.S. let the match slip away. Coach Bob Bradley took notice.

Mr. BOB BRADLEY (Coach, 2010 U.S. Men's World Cup Team): As we move into the World Cup, players that are on a good role come in handy.

PESCA: He was speaking specifically of his two most surprising additions: forwards Gomez and Edson Buddle. Among the surprising snubs was Brian Ching, a strong veteran, but one who was suffering from an ill-timed hamstring injury. The team is fairly inexperienced, only eight players who've been named to a World Cup roster; only six who've played in a World Cup match.

Landon Donovan is one of them. This is his third World Cup, but the first one featuring a live announcement ceremony.

Mr. LANDON DONOVAN (Member, 2010 U.S. Men's World Cup Team): This is by far the biggest I've seen, particularly because we're here at ESPN. And when ESPN gets behind something, they can really boost it.

PESCA: ESPN's potential to deliver a profusion of hoopla is summed up by a phrase.

Mr. JED DRAKE (Vice President, ESPN; Executive Producer, World Cup Coverage): When too much is just enough.

PESCA: That's Jed Drake who's in charge of ESPN's production for the World Cup. He says taking the reading of a roster off a sheet of paper and turning it into a spectacle was the national team's idea and a good one.

Mr. DRAKE: You know, here's a release or here's the team live. You know, the impact of doing the latter is hugely beneficial for them and great for us.

PESCA: Every sports fan knows that ESPN can at times smother the viewer in hype and self-promotion. But evangelizing for the sport and promoting the World Cup is exactly what U.S. soccer fans have been hungering for.

In the ESPN news room, a SportsCenter anchor was delighted to be told about a new ESPN commercial showing Landon Donovan at an ESPN copy machine. Donovan later said he was delighted to be in the commercial. The question is, can the excitement be copied when play begins in 15 days?

Mike Pesca, NPR News, Bristol, Connecticut.

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