Track and field's most prestigious non-Olympic meet opens Friday at Dusseldorf, West Germany, and for once the United States is represented internationally by an outstanding group of athletes.
The Amateur Athletic Union permitted a number of stars to skip earlier international dual meets and compete on their own if they would agree to perform in this first World Cup, a three-day competition in which all events are finals.
So Steve Williams, Marty Liquori, Edwin Moses, Frank Shorter, Dwight Stones, Arnie Robinson, Mac Wilkins and Charles Foster are going after what amounts to world championships.
The United States and the two top finishers in the European Cup (East German men and women, West German men and Soviet women) are the only national teams in the competition. The others are Europe III, Americas II, Africa, Asia and Oceania (New Zealand -Australia).
The U.S. men are expected to battle Europe III and East Germany for team honors. The three European teams should dominate the women's competition.
There will be 20 events for men and 14 for women, all eight-entry finals, with scoring on a 9-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis.
The meet was designed to bring together the world's outstanding athletes, but there are notable absentees. Tanzania's Filbert Bayi (1,500 meters) and Uganda's John Akii-Bua (400-Meter hurdles) are missing because of govermental disapproval, although the African boycott of New Zealand was officially set aside for this meet.
Soviet Union's Vladimir Yashchenko, the high-jump world record holder, did not compete in the European Cup, which served as a qualifier. Dick Quax of New Zealand, the new 5,000-meter record holder, was inexplicably passed up in Oceania's selections in favor of Australia's David Fitzsimons. Samson Kimombwa of Kenya, the 10,000 record setter, was beaten by Ethiopia's Miruts Yifter in the African trials.
Soviet sprinter Valeri Borzov was edged by Italy's Pietro Mennea for the European III team. And the one-entry limitation kept out many Americans wh certainly arnk among the world's top eight in each event.
The Asian men and African women are not competitive in anything, but one of the corollary goals of the World Cup is to upgrade competition in those areas and exposure at Dusseldorf figures to help.
Aside from the team competition, interest centers on bids for doubles by Cubans Alberto Juantorena and Silvio Leonardr doubles by CUbans Alberto Juantorena and Silvio Leonard, Poland's Irina Szewinska and Yifter.
Juantorena, who accomplished a 400-800 double in the Montreal Olympics, is expected to repeat. He lowered his world 800 record to 1:43.44 in the World University Games, then whipped his No. 1 challenger, Kenyan Mike Boit, in Zurich.
Leonard ran the 100 meters in 9.98 seconds in qualifying for the Americas II team on Aug. 10 at Guadalajara, Mexico. That was only three-hundredths of a second off Jimmy Hines' world record from the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. Williams, who missed the 1976 Olympics with a hamstring injury; World Games champion Eugen Ray of East Germany, and Mennea figure to make Friday's 100 meters a memorable race. Steve Riddick is the U.S. entry in the 200, but a sharper Clancy Edwards may be substituted before Sunday's race.
Szewinska will contest the women's 200 Friday and 400 Sunday. Yifter runs in the 10,000 Friday and the 5,000 Sunday.
Wilkins (discus), Robinson (long jump) and Moses (400-meter hurdles), all gold medalists at Montreal, will try to get the U.S. off to a fast start with victories Friday.
"I think we have more than a fair chance of winning," said Washington lawyer Bob Comstock, an assistant manager with the U.S. team. "This is one of our strongest teams ever, although the women are a little weak compared to the men.
"Lots of individual athletes can give us trouble, like Juantorena and Yifter, but taking the teams as a wholeonly East Germany should give us any real trouble."
George Malley, the DuVal High and Penn State graduate from Glenn Dale, Md., will represent the U.S. in the 3,000-meter steeplechase Saturday.Cliff Wiley of the D.C. Striders is a member of the favored American 400-meter relay team.
Despite Yashchenko's absence, Sunday's high jump could provide a grand finale for the meet. Rolf Beilschmidt of East Germany cleared 7-7 in the European Cup and is favored to defeat Stones, the former record holder who has been off form recently. Also in the field is Olympic champion Jacek Wszola of Poland.
Another Sunday hot spot is the 110-meter high hurdles duel between Foster and Alejandro Casanas of Cuba, who set a world record of 13.21 in the World Games. Foster upset Casanas at Zurich last week.
Liquori has been running well, but if Yifter can escape the problems that usually bug him - miscounting laps, showing up late, etc. - his finishing kick is unstoppable. Shorter, bothered by stiffness in a hamstring, also lacks the finish that Yifter routinely throws into the 10,000 - a 54-second final quarter.
New Zealand's John Walker should win Saturday's 1,500 with ease. Steve Scott is the U.S. entry.
Besides Szewinska, women to watch are East Germany's Marlies Oelsner, who took the 100-meter record under 11 seconds with a brilliant 10.88 in July; teammate Rosemarie Ackermann, the straddler who lifted her high-jump mark to 6-6 3/4 last week, and Soviet 1,500 and 3,000stars Tatyana Kazankina and Liudmila Bragina, who helped destroy the U.S. at College Park a year ago.
Highlights of the meet will be shown Saturday and Sunday on ABC's "Wide World of Sports."