Penalty Kick

Faded soccer glory seen in a U.S. World Cup team without St. Louis talent

Chubby Americans who try to watch these games have no one to look at and subconsciously say: "That could be me." Baseball has Tony Gwynn and David Wells. Football has Orlando Pace and almost any other lineman.

This is a country known for beer bellies, butt cleavage, love handles and mother lodes of cellulite. Try to imagine most Americans playing soccer without risking a coronary.

Because of this passing interest in the sport, there isn't decent media coverage. Keough's son Ty Keough is part of the only broadcast team ESPN sent to Korea and Japan for the World Cup. Both the younger Keough and Jack Edwards do good work on the ground, broadcasting games. For the other games on ESPN and ESPN2, the commentators are back in Bristol, Connecticut, watching the game on a monitor.

As national interest and participation in soccer have surged, local soccer fortunes have declined. SLU teams are consistently ranked in the top 10, but the university's last NCAA soccer title came in 1973. The high schools feeding Kenrick Seminary, Prep South and Prep North, have long since closed. The seminary's soccer field has been replaced with a nursing home.

The stakes and the rewards in soccer have gotten higher.

"I can't tell you how much money they spent preparing this national team and how much money they spent over the years isolating players and getting them into the under-seventeen group and playing in the world tournament, then the under-twenty group," says Keough.

No, Keough can't say how much money it took to get the U.S. to the current level of competitiveness, but it's lot more cash than needed for a pickup game with priests.

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