There is no better place to get an idea of what this country's soccer people are saying and thinking about the state of the sport in the United States than the National Soccer Coaches Association of America convention, being held this year at the Hyatt-Regency Hotel in Crystal City.

Part of the convention's function is to give the nation's collegiate coaches an opportunity to conduct what amounts to annual meetings. But that's the ho-hum part.

Because only the NCAA rules committee has the power to make substantive changes in the game and because the convention is open to high school coaches, club coaches and, really, anyone else willing to pay the registration fee, the real action takes place in the clinics, seminars, merchandise show and any other place you might be able to buttonhole someone.

There was even a successful attempt at breaking a Guinness Book of World Records mark for ball juggling by Allan Abuto, a Kenyan who lives in New York. He dribbled 16 hours 44 minutes.

College coaches appreciate the opportunity to caucus with other college coaches about possible rule changes. The hottest topic this year is the desire of many coaches to expand the NCAA Division I men's tournament from 24 teams to at least 32.

"We've been at, or around, this number of teams for more than a decade," said Drexel Coach Johnson Bowie, "and it doesn't take much to figure out that there's been a tremendous growth in the number of talented players during that time. I think it's causing some frustration for the programs that maybe aren't among the elite, but are on the edge."

The one subject on which there is no disagreement is the U.S. Soccer Federation's bid to host the 1994 World Cup.

"Obviously, that's on everyone's minds," Dartmouth women's coach Bill O'Hara said. "I know a lot of people are keeping their fingers crossed. And I think anyone who hadn't been to this event before would be surprised by the depth and intensity of the feelings these people have for the game of soccer."

O'Hara was right.

"I was thinking the base of the {soccer} infrastructure was much weaker than what I have seen," said Enzo Bearzot, the coach of Italy's 1982 World Cup championship team, who was at the convention on behalf of an equipment manufacturer and has announced his support for the USSF's World Cup effort. "I have been fabulously surprised."