U.S. leading world in fans traveling to World Cup

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The U.S. is winning the race to have more traveling fans at the 2010 World Cup than any other team, tourism officials said Thursday.

More than 85,000 tickets for matches at next summer's tournament have already been snapped up by Americans keen to follow the likes of Fulham's Clint Dempsey and Hull City's Jozy Altidore in South Africa.

The figure overshadows the 50,000 tickets bought by England fans who are expected to number around 25,000 in South Africa.

Roshene Singh, the chief marketing officer at South African Tourism told Goal.com: "Clearly the U.S. is beating the UK in ticket sales, which is interesting as it is not hugely regarded as a soccer-loving country."

World Cup fever is gripping the U.S. despite soccer ranking below American football, baseball, basketball, golf and tennis as the country's most popular sports.

The surge in interest has been put down to several factors, including the U.S. having its best-ever World Cup run in 2002 -- reaching the quarterfinals -- and this past summer's stunning run to the final of the Confederations Cup.

David Beckham's move to the Los Angeles Galaxy has also drawn more fans to the sport while tourism officials also believe that Americans are keen to visit South Africa.

"We think many of the Americans coming here are as interested in visiting Africa as they are in seeing the football," Singh added.

But Singh said that when a second batch of tickets is released in the New Year, she expects more England fans to make the decision to come to South Africa and follow Fabio Capello's team.

Friday's draw will also determine where England will be based in the first round and whom and where the team is likely to play should it qualify for its group.

"Once the second round of ticket sales starts in January, we will see more England fans buying tickets and also they will know what is available after the draw," said Singh. "Now the tickets will go out onto fan sites which will make it easier to get access." --Goal.com