He's the greatest player from Brazil, the most successful soccer nation. He's also the man who sparked the development of the sport in the United States.

So who better to analyze Sunday's Women's World Cup semifinal between the Americans and Brazilians than Pele?

"I'm in a very difficult situation," Pele said today. "My heart is with Brazil, but on the other hand, I'm very happy the U.S. team has done so well. I was active with my soccer camps years ago and teaching the `beautiful game' to young girls across the country.

"This leaves me in a very emotional state. I only wish this was the final."

The final will be at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. next Saturday, with the winner of the China-Norway semifinal meeting the survivor from Sunday's match at Stanford Stadium between the United States and Brazil. Pele hopes to see either Brazil or the United States win at Pasadena.

For now, however, he is reliving the emotions of July 4, 1994.

"I remember feeling this way five years ago during the men's World Cup '94, when Brazil played the U.S. in the second round," Pele said.

Brazil won that game 1-0 and went on to win its fourth world title, a record. Brazil won three World Cup titles under Pele's leadership.

After his retirement from the Brazilian national team, Pele was a guiding force for developing soccer in the U.S. during the 1970s. He then joined the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League and, along with international stars such as Franz Beckenbauer of Germany, started a soccer boom on the professional level that lasted into the early 1980s until the NASL folded.

More importantly, his work through clinics and as an ambassador for the sport was instrumental in establishing grass roots programs. Those programs produced the players who will take the field Sunday.

And he likes what he is seeing on the field.

"I'm very pleased to see how much attention the tournament has received worldwide," Pele said. "The level of play has been fantastic, very open, just the way I like it. This tournament no doubt will provide a tremendous lift to women's soccer around the world."

As for the makeup of the teams, Pele sees something very special: inner strength.

"Brazil showed a lot of heart after allowing Nigeria to tie the game," he said of the Brazilians' 4-3 overtime victory in the quarterfinals after they blew a 3-0 halftime lead. "Sissi has been a true leader and the key to Brazil's success.

"They will need to shore up the defense against the Americans in order to keep it close, because the U.S. team has so many strong finishers."

Indeed, the Americans have displayed great depth, always a key to going far in a tournament involving five games in two weeks just to get to the final.

Like Brazil, they have a big star.

"Mia Hamm, she is terrific to watch," Pele said. "She has great ball control and moves so well on the field, always sure of herself. She plays the game with Brazilian flair and style.

"The U.S. also showed tremendous heart and a great will to win against the Germans. Their bench is very solid, with players like Shannon MacMillan, who seems to be in the right place at the right time -- all the time."

So who does Pele favor for this final that is causing him so much emotional distress?

Silence. He'll just watch and enjoy.