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Steve Ralston (19) and Gregg Berhalter (3) celebrate after a United States goal against Mexico on Saturday night. 
 (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Steve Ralston (19) and Gregg Berhalter (3) celebrate after a United States goal against Mexico on Saturday night. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)

U.S. men’s soccer team defeats Mexico to qualify for World Cup

Qualifying for the World Cup is sweet. Doing it against your archrival is nirvana.

The United States is headed to next year’s soccer championship in Germany after beating Mexico 2-0 Saturday night in Columbus, Ohio, thanks to goals by Steve Ralston and DaMarcus Beasley 5 minutes apart in the second half.

The quick strikes, after a sloppy and chippy first half, lifted the Americans into the 32-team tournament with three games to spare. It was the first time since 1934 that the Americans were the first team into the World Cup for North and Central America and the Caribbean.

It’s also the fifth straight World Cup appearance for the Americans, who are ranked sixth in the world, one spot behind Mexico – for now.

The win avenged a 2-1 loss in Mexico City in March and gave American goalkeeper Kasey Keller his 50th career victory for the national team. The United States has not lost to Mexico on American soil since 1999, and has not yielded any goals in that span, either.

The Americans are 6-1 in the final qualifying round and play at Guatemala on Wednesday, when most of the regulars will be excused.

Mexico (5-1-1) still needs another point in its final three games to make Germany 2006.

“Ukraine finished in a 1-all tie at Georgia in a game FIFA ordered played in an empty stadium because of fan violence at Georgia’s home games against Greece and Turkey. Ruslan Rotan put the visitors ahead in the 44th minute, but Georgi Gakhokidze tied the score in the 89th.

Ukraine (7-0-3), atop Europe Group Two with 24 points, clinched its first World Cup appearance when second-place Turkey (4-1-5) was held to a 2-all tie at home against Denmark.


U.S. team makes Four Nations final

Jenny Potter scored twice to lead the United States past Sweden 2-0 in Hameenlinna, Finland, sending the Americans to the final of the women’s Four Nations Cup against Canada for the fourth straight year.

Canada beat host Finland 6-1 earlier at Tampere in its final round-robin game. The gold-medal game is today.

Canada is the defending Four Nations champion after edging the U.S. team 2-1 to win last year’s tournament in Lake Placid, N.Y. The United States is the reigning world champion, having beaten Canada in a penalty shot shootout in April’s title game in Sweden.

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Armstrong donates to victims

Seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong will donate $500,000 to help cancer patients who were displaced by Hurricane Katrina receive treatment. … World Cup champion Jeret Peterson of the United States and defending champion Li Nina of China won opening aerials events of the World Cup freestyle ski season in Mount Buller, Australia. … The Detroit Pistons signed free-agent swingman Maurice Evans to a three-year deal. … In the Dominican Republic, Phoenix Suns guard Leandro Barbosa scored 18 points to lead Brazil to a 93-75 victory over the United States at the World Championship basketball qualifying tournament. The Brazilians advanced to the gold-medal game against Argentina. The U.S. team will face Venezuela in the bronze-medal game.