HAMBURG, Germany — Security is tight around the U.S. men’s soccer team as it prepares for the World Cup. At its training facility in Norderstedt, a northern suburb of Hamburg, a dog sniffs the bags and equipment of reporters and photographers before they enter. The facility is ringed by dozens of German police officers and security guards.

“Other teams have great security standards,” said Ina Horn of German Securitas. “But the Americans have the most security, the highest.”

At the Park Hyatt Hotel in Hamburg, where the team is staying, airport-like security was in place for Friday news conference. Bags were passed through X-ray machines, and visitors had to walk through metal-detector gates.

Gaining fans?If media interest is any measure, the U.S. men’s soccer team is more popular now than years ago.

The Americans were whipped during the 1998 World Cup in France, losing all three of its games and scoring just one goal. During the buildup for the 2002 tournament, only 20 media outlets covered the team, according to U.S. men’s soccer spokesman Jim Moorhouse.

But the United States team was one of the big surprises of the 2002 tournament. Of the 32 teams that qualified, the U.S. advanced to the final eight before outplaying but eventually losing to Germany, 1-0, in the quarterfinals.

This year, about 50 media outlets have been covering the team.

“It’s taken about 15 or 20 years, but the U.S. finally knows what it means to compete in a World Cup,” Moorhouse said.

Feeling goodThe U.S. team is in good health heading into its opening game Monday against the Czech Republic in Gelsenkirchen. Only captain Claudio Reyna’s strained hamstring was causing concern. But the midfielder played on Monday in a closed exhibition game against Angola, and practiced with the team on Friday.

Coach knows bestU.S. manager Bruce Arena chose for his team to stay in downtown Hamburg, Germany’s second-largest city. It worked last time, Moorhouse said, when Arena’s team made the quarterfinals while headquartered his team in downtown Seoul for the 2002 World Cup.

During the 1998 tournament in France, then-coach Steve Sampson placed the team in a secluded village two hours outside of Paris, and the team lost all three of its games.

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