US players to boycott Australia Cup

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The Independent Online

Angered by stalled contract negotiations with the US Soccer Federation, players on the US Women's World Cup champions have said they will boycott the Australia Cup tournament next month.

Angered by stalled contract negotiations with the US Soccer Federation, players on the US Women's World Cup champions have said they will boycott the Australia Cup tournament next month.

The contract the players signed in 1996 expired six months ago and, according to John B Langel, a lawyer for the players, the USSF said it will not make a new proposal in the near future.

Instead, the federation and proposed the players work under terms of the expired agreement.

"You can imagine the frustration and disappointment we feel as a team," US co-captain Julie Foudy said on Wednesday. "It was important to all of us to meet right after the World Cup to reach a new agreement in order that we could focus exclusively on our Olympic training beginning in January 2000. US Soccer refused to listen and have now asked us to accept their last-minute proposal."

"In our efforts to promote women's soccer throughout the country over the past decade, we feel we have behaved professionally and therefore deserve the same respect and communication from US Soccer," co-captain Carla Overbeck said. "They have essentially ignored our successes over the past three years - including a World Cup win and Olympic gold medal - and are now asking us to do the same.

In Sydney, Australian Women's Soccer Association chief executive Warren Fisher said the development was "of great concern" as the association had banked on at least four of the US stars turning out in Australia.

"We have a contract with the US Soccer Federation which specifically names eight players - and the team has to include any four of those eight," Fisher told Australian Associated Press Thursday.

The key players the association would like to see in Australia are superstar Mia Hamm, co-captain Julie Foudy, veteran Michelle Akers and Brandi Chastain, famous for scoring the World Cup-winning goal in the penalty shootout and celebrating by stripping off her shirt.

"US soccer has given an undertaking to send out their best team," said Fisher, who added the tournament had been moved from December to January to accommodate the players' schedules.

"We moved the entire tournament to make sure the best players would be available and this development is of great concern to us.

"US soccer was supposed to have advised us of their roster by December 14 but at this stage we haven't received any notification at all of what players will be coming.

"Clearly the thing we want to avoid is having a B team come out here, the US resolving this a week after and seeing the top players all back in the team for the Olympics."

However, Fisher said he is also realistic about the situation, acknowledging the US Soccer Federation could yet lock out the 20 leading players and pick an entirely new team.

Fisher has no doubt that even if the top 20 players US players boycotted the tournament, the country of 7.5 million registered players would field a strong team.

"The US has the ability to field the best team and the second-best team in the world."

The American women had been scheduled to travel to Australia on January 2 to play in the Australia Cup against the Czech Republic, Sweden and Australia. Also in jeopardy are two games scheduled for February in Florida.

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