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Putting Our Best Fútbol Forward
A Zealot's Goal: Turn Americans on to Soccer by the '94 World Cup
Evangelist LeTellier is himself the epitome of the heathens he seeks to convert. Captain of his University of Tennessee tennis team, he considered soccer a snooze until he spent two years on a Mormon church mission in West Germany. There he became hooked on the beauty of the game. Already a sports freak (his dad was team physician of the old Milwaukee Braves), he gave up law to become a top lieutenant to Peter Ueberroth and made soccer the surprise best-attended event of the '84 Olympics.
After the Games, he joined the international soccer bureaucracy and miraculously helped persuade it to stage the 1994 World Cup in the United States. He got another break when the U.S. national team qualified for this June's Cup finals in Italy. To build on that momentum, LeTellier and Werner Fricker, head of the U.S. Soccer Federation, are shrewdly playing 22 U.S. cities against each other to become the eight to 12 sites of the '94 finals. As for TV rights, the two are working on ways to insert commercials unobtrusively and to prevail upon a network to air at least 12 U.S. national-team games in the next four years. But can LeTellier finally make soccer happen here? Says his old boss Ueberroth: "He's the right guy."
January 31, 2015
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