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WORLD CUP SOCCER ON TV? WHO CARES?

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This is the day Americans have been waiting for - the United States soccer team plays its first-ever home game in the globe's most popular sporting event, the World Cup.

Well, maybe not.No, make that definitely not.

Polls indicate that about 70 percent of Americans aren't even aware of the World Cup. And of the other 30 percent, a good percentage don't care.

This event was supposed to bring the United States into line with the rest of the world in worshipping soccer. It was supposed to make America another hotbed of soccer fanaticism.

Yeah, just like we were supposed to join the rest of the world in using the metric system back in the '70s.

For one thing, most Americans only have access to the games on television. Have you ever watched a soccer game on television?

Doesn't translate well.

Not only do cameras have trouble covering the field, but the lack of scoring makes World Cup soccer a snooze.

There are more goals scored in the last five minutes of your average NBA game than there will be in the entire World Cup tournament.

ABC and ESPN are going to try to make the game more viewer friendly by not interrupting it with commercials during the 45-minute halves. (The clock runs continuously.)

It's a nice idea, but getting people to care about the action on the field will be more difficult. (And the lack of bathroom breaks could prove bothersome.)

And it's difficult to imagine millions of Americans sitting down this morning (9:30 a.m., Ch. 4) to see the United States take on Switzerland.

Aren't the Swiss neutral? How can you work up a grudge against a country that not only sat out both world wars but the Cold War as well?

The rest of the weekend's action, all on ESPN, includes Italy vs. Ireland, Colombia vs. Romania, Belgium vs. Morocco, Norway vs. Mexico and Cameroon vs. Sweden.

That's not exactly a lineup of Cowboys vs. Bills, Rockets vs. Knicks, or even Rangers vs. Canucks.

ABC and ESPN didn't pay much for the rights to these games. Practically nothing, compared to the rights to football, baseball, basketball - even golf.

And the logic behind that is obvious.

If you're one of the few in this country who are interested in the World Cup and you've got cable, you'll be able to see every game in the tournament. ABC will televise 11 games, including the title match on July 17. ESPN will carry the other 41 games (some on tape delay).

Hey, they can put all that soccer on TV, but they can't make us watch it.