Obama gives USA team presidential approval

WASHINGTON - The United States team was given the presidential seal of approval on Thursday before heading to South Africa for the World Cup.

The squad met U.S. President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton at the White House on Thursday, posing for photographs and swapping jokes about the team's apparel.

"I just want to say how incredibly proud we are of the team. Everybody is going to be rooting for you," Obama said.

"Although sometimes we don't remember here in the United States, this is going to be the biggest world (stage) and you're going to be representing all of us. We are incredibly proud of what you've done already."

Clinton, recently appointed to the U.S. bid team hoping to secure hosting rights to the 2018 or 2022 World Cup, joined the irreverent mood with a wisecrack about the player's fashion sense.

"I want to be on this team just for the shoes," he said. "This is the only team that I've ever seen that had these cool shoes."

U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard told Reuters all the players got a real kick out of meeting Obama.

"It was pretty awesome," Howard said in a telephone interview. "He was excited for us of course, he knows what a big stage this and the enormity was certainly not lost on him, he understands it quite well."

The U.S. play Turkey in a warm-up in Philadelphia on Saturday before jetting off to South Africa to finalise their preparations.

Their opening game is against England in Rustenburg on June 12.

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