Gulati: USA deserve more respect

IRENE, South Africa - U.S soccer chief Sunil Gulati believes his country, who face England in their World Cup Group C opener on Saturday, deserve greater respect after making major advances in the game.

"I think we do get a lot of respect in many places in the world but there are still people in the United States who ask 'When do you think soccer will take off?" and there are still articles across the Atlantic that say MLS is a good pub league or whatever," he told reporters on Wednesday.

Gulati, president of the United States Soccer Federation, said the rise of Major League Soccer and the improved performances of the national team should have answered the questions about the U.S's standing in the game.

"In the end I let the facts speak for themselves - we have a league that is 15 years old, there aren't many leagues in the world that have developed so quickly.

"No-one who knows anything about the game says that MLS is of the standard of the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, or the Bundesliga but in 15 years it has come a long way and then we have a national team that has qualified for six World Cups in a row," he said.

A year ago, the U.S. beat European champions Spain in the Confederations Cup, held in South Africa, and then went 2-0 up against Brazil in the final before losing 3-2.

"You look at the Confederations Cup last summer and after the first two games (heavy defeats by Italy and Brazil) people said, 'This team can't play', and all of a sudden, in a real game, you beat Spain who hadn't lost for 35 matches and then you take Brazil to the max.

"I don't know what else we have to do? I guess part of what else we have to do would be to win on Saturday," he said.

Gulati said the England game was getting unprecedented media coverage at home and offered a chance to further entrench football in American sporting life.

"The amount of time we are getting on ESPN (television), the cover of Sports Illustrated, the cover of TIME magazine. Can anyone remember the last time all of that happened for soccer? People who run those companies understand that the game is more important in the United States now.

"Whether it is kids saying to Mum and Dad, 'Hey, we want to watch the game,' People know about the World Cup and this early game.

"In terms of marketing you couldn't ask for anything better. It's a dream game from that perspective," he said.

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