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U-S-A. . . U-S-A . . . U-S-A!

You might hear that familiar cheer this week as the United States women’s soccer team begins its quest to win the World Cup in Germany.

The United States used to dominate women’s soccer, but it’s not a heavy favorite this year. The Americans, led by forward Abby Wambach and goalkeeper Hope Solo, are good, but lots of teams have a chance at the title.

Germany is the defending World Cup champion and has the advantage of playing before home crowds. Brazil is led by the magical Marta, a five-time player of the year. In addition, teams from England, Japan, Canada and Mexico are much improved. In the early games, the United States has to play some tough teams, including North Korea, which the U.S. beat, 2-0, on Tuesday.

Women’s soccer is just one of many sports with a more international look these days.

In tennis, only two American men — Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish — are ranked in the top 30 players in the world. It’s the same with the women. Only two American women — Serena and Venus Williams — are in the top 30.

Rory McIlroy, from Northern Ireland, won the United States Open in golf. It’s not a big surprise that someone from outside the United States won our national title. After all, 20 of the world’s top 30 golfers come from countries other than the United States.

Basketball may have been invented in Springfield, Massachusetts, but now it’s a world game. Several top picks in last week’s National Basketball Association (NBA) draft came from places such as Turkey, Lithuania and Congo. The Washington Wizards picked a 6-foot-11-inch forward, Jan Vesely, from the Czech Republic.

Some American sports fans think that all these foreign teams and athletes are not a good thing. They say U.S. teams and athletes should always be the best at everything.

I think the foreign teams and players are great. Think of all the fabulous athletes we get to see: athletes such as tennis star Rafael Nadal (Spain), the Caps’ Alex Ovechkin (Russia) and baseball slugger Jose Bautista (the Dominican Republic).

Of course, kids who dream of becoming a famous athlete should remember one thing: You will have to compete against players from all over the world, not just from the United States, to reach the top.

So root hard for the United States women’s soccer team. Chant “U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!” as loudly as you can. To win the World Cup, the players will have to beat some terrific teams.

Fred Bowen is the author of 16 sports books for kids, including “Soccer Team Upset.

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