Americans prepare for kick-off

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The Independent Online
Football

Major League Soccer, the professional league created as part of the deal that brought the 1994 World Cup to the United States, held its inaugural draft yesterday - and American players dominated the choices.

Out of the 80 players selected over eight rounds, 69 were American. The 23-year-old Brian McBride, a prolific striker at St Louis University who played one season in the German Second Division with Wolfsburg, was the top choice.

McBride was picked by the Columbus Crew, while former US international strikers Jean Harbour and Ted Eck were the next choices, taken by the Colorado Rapids and Dallas Burn respectively.

The league has already assigned 40 leading players to the 10 MLS teams and there are further rounds this week. Italy's Roberto Donadoni, who played in the last World Cup, was drafted to the New York Metro Stars, Colombia's Carlos Valderrama to Tampa Bay Mutiny and Doctor Khumalo of South Africa to the Columbus Crew.

Donadoni joins the allocated US internationals Tab Ramos and Tony Meola, while the US captain and sweeper, Marcelo Balboa, who has won a national record 109 caps, was assigned to Colorado along with Roy Wegerle, the former QPR, Blackburn and Coventry striker.

American defender Alexi Lalas and Italian veteran forward Giuseppe Galderisi are expected to get an early release from Padova. "The two players expressed their intention to start in the upcoming season, and we are not going to oppose their plans. A final decision will be taken next week," Sergio Giordani, president of Padova, said.

Both players, whose contracts with Padova expire in June, have not played in Italy for several weeks. Galderisi, whose previous clubs include Juventus, Milan and Lazio, said in a recent interview he would sign with Boston Revolution.

Despite the general apathy towards football in the United states, the game's international bodies had insisted that the development of a professional league to continue building the sport in the American market was a requirement for the United States hosting the World Cup two years ago.

The league's creation was delayed by a year, but will kick off its inaugural season on 6 April in a match in San Jose between the Clash and DC United.

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