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 Tuesday, December 17, 2002 20:15 EST

Arena has posted most wins by American coach

[Associated Press]

NEW YORK -- Now comes the hardest part for Bruce Arena: showing that the Americans' quarterfinal appearance at this year's World Cup wasn't a fluke.

Arena was given a new four-year contract Tuesday as coach of the U.S. soccer team, a deal that takes him through the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

In the six months since the end of this year's tournament, Arena thought about returning to a club team, but decided against it after consulting with his family.

``There's only going to be one goal the next four years, to qualify for Germany,'' Arena said during a telephone conference. ``I sure learned a lot. I'm hopeful these experiences will benefit our team as we move forward. I'm much more prepared this time around.''

Arena made $605,630 in the year ending Aug. 31, 2001, according to the last tax filing made by the U.S. Soccer Federation. Neither side would divulge his salary under the new contract.

He is among just a few coaches to retain their jobs following the tournament, along with Sven Goran Eriksson (England), Rudi Voeller (Germany), Giovanni Trapattoni (Italy), Senol Gunes (Turkey) and Marcelo Bielsa (Argentina).

Arena would have considered offers from English clubs, but none were made.

``In all honesty, I don't think there's that kind of respect for American managers and American players in England,'' he said.

Arena, 51, has led the U.S. team to a 34-18-14 record, winning this year's North and Central American and Caribbean championship and helping the U.S. team post its best World Cup finish since the first tournament in 1930.

``There's no question Bruce was the only candidate we considered,'' said USSF president Bob Contiguglia, who hired Arena in October 1998.

Arena already has started preparing the team for qualifying for the 2006 tournament, which starts in 2004. The United States beat El Salvador 2-0 on Nov. 17 in its first full international game since the World Cup, and has exhibition games scheduled in February against Argentina in Miami, and at Jamaica.

Up ahead are two major tournaments next summer: the FIFA Confederations Cup in France in June, and the CONCACAF Gold Cup the following month in the United States. Arena intends to take a mixture of veterans and youngsters to the Confederations Cup, where the field includes Brazil, France and Turkey.

``If we go into the Confederations Cup with a very inexperienced team, we will take a beating,'' Arena said.

Arena said goalkeepers Kasey Keller and Brad Friedel told him they planned to stay with the team for the next four-year cycle, and that he would have one of them at the Confederations Cup. Arena thought there also was a good chance U.S. captain Claudio Reyna, coming off Nov. 19 surgery to repair torn ligaments in his left knee, also would stay through the 2006 tournament.

``I think a lot of that is going to depend on how he comes back from that injury,'' Arena said.

Qualifying figures to be slightly easier because FIFA decided Tuesday that the CONCACAF region will have an opportunity to win a fourth berth.

``We deserved it,'' Arena said. ``It's ridiculous that Europe has as many places as they do.''

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