Sports 101

In America, soccer is usually seen as the fifth sport, behind baseball, basketball, football, and hockey. But the Women's World Cup (held every four years) is looking to change that. Opening ceremonies and the first game between the US Women's National Soccer Team and Denmark begin tomorrow at Giants Stadium in New Jersey.

The international tournament is expected to be the largest women-only sporting event in history. More than 450,000 tickets have been sold for the 32-game event (June 19-July 10), which will be played at eight venues across the US. The games will be aired on ABC, ESPN, and ESPN2. "We look at it as a great opportunity to show America what our sport is all about," says American co-captain Julie Foudy.

Q: When did the US Women's National Soccer Team start to compete?

A: In 1985. Six years later, the team won the first Women's World Cup, defeating Norway. In 1995, the United States lost the cup to Norway. One year later, the team rose to the top again and won gold at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

Q: Why is the US Women's National Soccer Team considered the best in the world?

A: The US team has compiled a record of 145 wins, 21 losses, and 8 ties in the '90s. The team is full of veterans, a deep squad with an attacking style like no other. Some players from the Olympic gold medal-winning team will start.

Top players include Mia Hamm, the No. 1 goal scorer ever - man or woman - in international soccer; co-captain Julie Foudy, four-time All-American at Stanford; and Kristine Lilly, who's played more national-team games (180) than any player in soccer history.

Q: What is the tournament format?

A: Sixteen countries, up from 12 in 1995, will compete. In the first round, each team will play the others in its group once, with the top two teams in each of the four groups going to the quarterfinals. The US is in Group A and plays Denmark on opening day, then Nigeria June 24 in Chicago, and North Korea June 27 in Foxboro, Mass. The top seven finishers (plus Australia, because it's the host country) will qualify for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.

*Lisa Leigh Parney's e-mail address is parneyl@csps.com

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