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The Toe Poke
By ESPN Staff

Pope retires from international competition

CHICAGO -- U.S. soccer star Eddie Pope is retiring from international competition, ending a career in which he played in three World Cups and the 1996 Olympics.

Pope is playing for Real Salt Lake this season in Major League Soccer, but has missed the last two games because of a bruised right foot.

The 32-year-old defender was replaced on the MLS all-star team Thursday by D.C. United defender Facundo Erpen. The MLS stars play English Premier League champion Chelsea FC on Saturday.

"After having the opportunity to play in my third World Cup and taking some time to reflect with my family, I felt like it was the right moment to say goodbye to the national team," Pope said.

"I'll miss all my teammates, and I will always appreciate the successes we had together. I really never imagined that my international career would last this long, and I am very grateful for the opportunities over the last 11 years," he said.

Pope played internationally for 11 years and appeared in nine World Cup matches.

"Eddie Pope is arguably the finest defender this country has ever produced," former U.S. men's soccer coach Bruce Arena said.

Pope tied Kasey Keller and Claudio Reyna for the most World Cup qualifying appearances in U.S. history with 31. He scored eight times for the United States, including a goal in a 2-2 draw with Mexico in a World Cup qualifier in 1997.

Pope has made the All-Star team in all 11 of his seasons in the MLS. A three-time champion, he scored the game-winning goal in overtime to give D.C. United the title in 1996.