Three months later, they are still talking about it. From the loyalists at Loftus Road in the west end of London, where Roy Wegerle performs his magic for the Queens Park Rangers of the English League's First Division, to the acute observers in Frankfurt and Milan. They're calling it the goal of the year, perhaps the finest the storied league has seen since the glory days of Rodney Marsh and George Best.

Wegerle, a man with connections to five countries, made the brilliant effort against Leeds United, a powerful northern club. Gaining control of the ball near the right sideline about 40 yards from the goal, he used carefully calculated strides to slice into the middle of the field.

Five defenders had their shots at him, kicking and groping for the ball, but Wegerle artfully dodged each. After approaching the penalty area he juked a final defender onto his heels, opening an imaginary funnel to the net. All that remained was the shot, which he calmly put between the goalkeeper and the post.

It was that magnificent effort and others like it that prompted the (London) Sunday Times to describe the 26-year-old South African as a player "who can lift spectators out of their seats in awe at what he has done, and then leave them gasping at his next trick."

And now, as the league's leading scorer with 14 goals, Wegerle has become the subject of a curious struggle among four countries -- including the United States -- for his services in the 1994 World Cup.

His native country is out, banned from international competition by FIFA, soccer's international governing body. He holds a German passport (because of his father's ancestry) and could play for the defending Cup champion.

He's been playing professionally in England since 1986 and will be eligible for citizenship this summer. And his mother's roots make him eligible for Scotland.

But because his wife is American, which makes him eligible for U.S. citizenship, and because his career was born in Florida, Wegerle says he wants to play for the unheralded Americans, who will stage the 1994 tournament.

A world-class striker playing for the U.S. team? No joke. English Coach Graham Taylor, who has joined the passionate British fans in pressuring Wegerle to commit to his squad, certainly isn't laughing.

Wegerle has said repeatedly he will wear a blue-and-white U.S. uniform as soon as his citizenship request is approved. Last spring, U.S. Soccer Federation officials tried mightily to make him eligible for the World Cup in Italy, but even a special plea to Congress failed.

Until the paper work is complete, the question is whether he can withstand the pleas of the English and Germans, who are capable of surrounding him with players who would undoubtedly help raise his game.

Why, the soccer world wonders, would one of the sport's rising stars want to play for a country that hasn't won a World Cup match since 1950?

"The main reason is my wife," Wegerle said by telephone from London, "and I think when my playing days are finished we'll settle in the United States. I feel a strong allegiance with the States and it would only be fair to repay them."

Wegerle played at the University of South Florida in 1982-83, for the North American Soccer League's Tampa Bay Rowdies in 1984 and the Major Indoor Soccer League's Tacoma Stars in 1985-86. He met his wife, Marie, a Miami native, while at USF and now spends "every spare moment" in Florida. His older brother, Steve, a longtime NASL player, still lives in the Tampa area.

Said Marsh, who coached Roy Wegerle with the Rowdies and helped him sign his first English contract, with Chelsea in 1986: "He's the best American kid there is, and he's not even American."

The USSF, badly in need of a superstar to animate an improving but dull national team, has hired Barbara Federman, a Los Angeles immigration attorney, to handle Wegerle's citizenship request.

It has been a frustrating process, slowed by the fact that the applicant does not live in this country full time.

And Wegerle, despite his intentions, is growing a bit impatient as the pressure to commit elsewhere intensifies.

"I just have to sit tight and wait," he said. "Yes, I'd have to say the U.S. is still my number one choice, but I can't wait and wait forever."

The longer he must wait, the better chance he will end up with England, his second choice.

Once a player appears for a country in a sanctioned international match, he is ineligible to play for another country.

The USSF already has claimed Ernie Stewart, a high-scoring forward for Tilburg II of the Dutch First Division who made his first U.S. appearance against Portugal in December. Stewart was born and raised in the Netherlands, but is eligible for the U.S. team because his father is an American who works at a military base in Soesterberg.

Wegerle met the U.S. players and coaches when they played an exhibition in Poland on Oct. 10.

Said U.S. Coach Bob Gansler, who doesn't get too excited about much: "I've seen him on highlight shows and the picture shows a very appealing story. He's a picturesque player who would be a tremendous asset to any team. Right now, he's playing exquisitely."

England and the United States "have expressed a very keen interest to have me," he said. "I want to play for the U.S., but I'm tired of waiting. I want to play for someone soon."