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Ex-captain Harkes U.S. World Cup reject

U.S. national team coach Steve Sampson named 20 of his 22 players for next month's World Cup in France on Tuesday, and as promised, former national team captain John Harkes was left off the roster.

Mutiny midfielder Frankie Hejduk and forward Roy Wegerle, recently obtained from D.C. United, were named, and former Mutiny forward Roy Lassiter was one of eight alternates.

Three players are vying for the final two spots: midfielder Tab Ramos and defenders Brian Regis and Carlos Llamosa. Sampson has until the FIFA deadline of June 2, 13 days before the United States opens against three-time champ Germany, to turn in his final roster.

Harkes' absence didn't come as much of a surprise. Harkes, who plays for D.C. United, fell out of favor with Sampson before last month's match in Austria. He is replaced as captain by Thomas Dooley of the Columbus Crew. Harkes' disappointment at taking a more defensive midfield role caused Sampson to release him.

"I spoke with John (Monday), and we had a good conversation," Sampson said. "I informed him that it's still possible he could be named to the World Cup squad, but unlikely. I'll keep an open mind, but I must be very honest, it's unlikely."

No major changes were made in the roster Sampson has used since qualifying for the Cup this year. However, some players have risen in favor since qualification, most notably Hejduk.

Hejduk, 23, had a strong exhibition season, especially in the Gold Cup in March. He scored in the 3-0 win over Austria.

Thought to be a reserve, Hejduk might have played his way onto the starting 11, Sampson said.

"Frankie has a tireless work rate up the flanks," Sampson said. "Yes, he could use more sophistication, and yes, he could be a better defender. But he's improved. He's made a strong case for himself."

The call to the U.S. national team came earlier than Hejduk thought.

"It's always been my dream to be in a World Cup, but I didn't think it would be this year," he said. "The last four months I thought I've played really well, but you never really know until the coach makes a final decision. To get the call was a relief."

Wegerle was on the 1994 World Cup team but was limited because of knee problems.

"I look at this as a second chance," he said. "Hopefully, this time things will be different."

Perhaps the strength of the national team will be at goalkeeper. Kasey Keller is the starter, but should any problems occur, Brad Friedel and Juergen Sommer are solid reserves.

At defense, Dooley brings experience, and young players such as Eddie Pope have plenty of potential. At midfield, Claudio Reyna is the playmaker, and Cobi Jones, Hejduk and Ernie Stewart will vie for playing time.

Perhaps a surprise at midfield is Brian Maisonneuve. Maisonneuve, as did Hejduk, finished strong and earned a roster spot.

Eric Wynalda, nursing a knee injury, is expected back in a few weeks. Brian McBride and reserve spark Preki are expected to provide goals.

Ramos is almost a lock to fill one of the final two spots. He is coming back from knee surgery, but Sampson said he could be named to the squad soon. Regis is seeking American citizenship and could be named by the end of the month. He is playing in Germany. Llamosa has less of a chance. He also is awaiting citizenship.

The team begins workouts May 11 in California.

"I think we have enough talent to get results," Sampson said. "But it's going to take an extraordinary effort. That means getting a point against Germany and going into the (third) match against Yugoslavia with three or four points. But I remain firm in the belief that we can do something special."

U.S. World Cup roster

POS. NAME CLUB, TEAM

GK Kasey Keller (Leicester, England)

GK Brad Friedel (Liverpool, England)

GK Juergen Sommer (Columbus Crew)

+ D Thomas Dooley (Columbus Crew)

D Eddie Pope (D.C. United)

D Jeff Agoos (D.C. United)

D Mike Burns (N.E.Revolution)

D Marcelo Balboa (Colorado Rapids)

D Alexi Lalas (NY/NJ MetroStars)

M Claudio Reyna (Wolfsburg, Germany)

M Cobi Jones (L.A. Galaxy)

M Brian Maisonneuve (Columbus Crew)

M Frankie Hejduk (Mutiny)

M Chad Deering (Wolfsburg, Germany)

M/F Joe-Max Moore (New England)

M/F Preki (K.C. Wizards)

M/F Ernie Stewart (NAC Breda, Netherlands)

F Brian McBride (Columbus Crew)

F Roy Wegerle (Mutiny)

F Eric Wynalda (San Jose Clash)

+ denotes team captain

ALSO UNDER CONSIDERATION

M Tab Ramos (NY/NJ MetroStars)

D David Regis (Karlsruhe, Germany)

D Carlos Llamosa (D.C. United)

ALTERNATES

Mark Dodd (GK), Mike Sorber (M), John O'Brien (D), Gregg Berhalter (D), Chris Henderson (M), Tony Sanneh (M), Roy Lassiter (F), David Wagner (D).

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