Team USA put its mark on the international soccer stage with an impressive showing in the 2002 World Cup. Defender Jeff Agoos, 34, is now back in the States preparing for another Cup, the one he and his team, the San Jose Earthquakes, hoisted last year as MLS champions.

AW: Besides advancing further, what were the differences between your 1998 World Cup team and this year’s team?
I think the big differences were time and maturity. We had a much deeper team and a big reason we were so much more experienced is because of the domestic league here in the States. That paid dividends in the campaign of 2002.

AW: Do you think the MLS will have a different feel now that the U.S. team performed so well in the Cup?
I hope so. I think the success we’ve had will pay off in the league, but I don’t think it’s going to turn things around where we’re going to replace the NBA or the NFL. Hopefully our performance will create a bit of a buzz and we’ll get more people at the games and more interest in the sport.

AW: How did you first get involved with the game?
Everything was football in Texas, but soccer was what all my friends were playing and what I enjoyed the most. I went every Friday and Saturday night and saw the Dallas Tornados play.

AW: What’s the future for soccer in the U.S.?
I think it’s got a good future here. It’s going to take some time, patience, and people getting involved, but I think the future is very bright. — J.E.M.