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Gibson agrees to terms with Mainz, looks forward to playing in Bundesliga.

Grover Gibson
After laboring in the German third division, Grover Gibson had agreed to terms with Mainz and will play in the Bundesliga next season.

Gary Davidson
and Chris Courtney
SoccerTimes

(Wednesday, April 24, 2002) -- Midfielder Grover Gibson will sign a multi-year contract this weekend with FSV Mainz 05, making him one of few Americans who will play in the German Bundesliga next season.

"Iíve given my word and theyíve given their word," said Gibson, a native of Fredericksburg, Va. "Contract terms have been negotiated and agreed upon. Only my signature is missing. The contract is for two years with a both-sided option for the third year."

At age 23, Gibson has logged six years of professional soccer in Germany, starting with the Bundesligaís Vfb Stuttgart, where he suffered a serious back injury playing for its amateur team. After rehabilitation, Gibson joined Augsberg of the third division before spending the last two years at Elversberg, where he made a name for himself playing left and defensive midfield in the third-division Regionalliga SŁd.

Mainz (18-5-9, 63 points) is second in the Second Bundesliga where the top three teams are promoted. "I got to visit a Mainz game and the atmosphere was great, the fans are loyal and supportive so I'm excited about the chance to play there," said Gibson, who was also courted by the Second Bundesligaís FC Union Berlin among other teams. "The city is very nice and I think (fiancee) Katy and I will be pretty happy there."

Three Americans played in the Bundesliga during 2001-02. Defender\midfielder Tony Sanneh is a key contributor for 1FC NŁrnberg which is struggling to avoid relegation. Young defender Cory Gibbs was sometimes good and often bad, receiving on-the-job training with last-place St. Pauli which will be demoted to the second division. Defender Frankie Hejduk saw only infrequent action for first-place Bayer Leverkusen.

Back in the mid-1990s, Gibson was one of the most luminous American prospects, playing for the United States under-17 national team in the 1995 world championships -- he later made a brief appearance with the national U-20s -- and planning to attend collegiate powerhouse Virginia. However, U.Va.ís coach, current U.S. menís coach Bruce Arena, left Charlottesville for Major League Soccerís D.C. United. Meanwhile, Gibson caught the eye of professional scouts, including some when the U.S. under-17s played Germany.

With the move back to a team in the Bundesliga, Gibson hopes American fans will begin to notice his accomplishments again and the U.S. coaching staff will include him in the player pool when planning for the 2006 World Cup begin.

"I got a little press back home when I went to Stuttgart -- but the problem was that I played two years in the third division and as soon as I went the road to play third division, my name just disappeared off the charts," Gibson said.

At Elversberg, "It was two promising years where I could develop consistently, where I could play consistently at third division and this year Iím back up in the Bundesliga. Iíve been with Stuttgart at the top level, I know how it all works. Itís good to be back and it will open up a lot of eyes back home because thatís all anybody cares about, the Bundesliga."

And though Arena admits he hasnít seen his one-time prize recruit play in some time, Gibson has his sights set on the 2006 World Cup which will be played in Germany. "My goal is 2006 and I have time," he said. "Iíll be 27, 28. I should have played, if everything goes well, four years in the Bundesliga. And it will be in the host country in Germany. Thatís my huge goal and if everything goes on track, it should be all right. The (2002 U.S. World Cup) roster just came out and thereís a lot of players who are, will be in their 30s. There should be a lot of doors opening for a lot of players for the next World Cup."

Managing editor Gary Davidson can be e-mailed at editor@soccertimes.com.

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