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25 years ago the United States hosted its first World Cup

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For many fans, this was a very bad decision, but for footballers Peter Vermes and Alexis Lalas, it helped boost football in the country.

25 years ago, the United States surprised the planet by hosting the 1994 FIFA World Cup.

When the country was selected as host, it didn’t even have a professional football league.

But for former players Peter Vermes and Alexis Lalas, it was a good decision by FIFA.

“At that time, being a professional soccer player in the United States wasn’t a reality, to be honest with you,” Vermes told Four Four Two.

“Although the ASPL had started in 1989, it wasn’t really a first-division league, so if you really wanted to forge ahead and try a professional career in soccer, it had to be overseas.”

“We were viewed at that time as a laughing stock because everybody was asking the question: ‘Why? There’s no professional league in the country – why would you give it to a country that doesn’t even play soccer?’ That type of thing,” he said.

“So it was imperative for us to qualify on merit to give some credibility to FIFA making that decision to give us the World Cup in 1994. I think it was huge.”

“In 1990 I bummed around Europe with my buddies and went to the World Cup and sat around and watched the team, painted my face, drank a lot of beer,” Alexis Lalas added.

“Not even fathoming that four years later I’d be on the field playing for the national team.”

“The federation, basically two years before the World Cup, established a training center in Southern California, in Mission Viejo, where we trained twice a day and then played internationals,” he commented.

“Which is why, when you look at players of my generation, we have so many caps – because that’s all that we did.”

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