MSL chief has more to cheer about now

March 31, 1991|By Bill Free

For once, Earl Foreman could affotd to be in a gleeful mood last week as the Major Soccer League drew closer to gaining Buffalo, N.Y., and Pittsburgh as expansion teams for next season and attendance was on the rise in most of the league.

"Remind all those people who kept saying the sky was falling on the MSL that Earl said it wasn't so," the MSL commissioner said. "In two weeks I expect to have a formal announcement that Pittsburgh is in the league, and I'm optimistic that by the end of April, we'll formally announce that Buffalo is in."

Foreman also was happy about a dramatic turnaround in the fortunes of the Cleveland Crunch on the field and in the stands.

There was some speculation early in January that the Crunch, then in last place in the Eastern Division, was close to folding after having three crowds of about 2,500.

But Cleveland has gone on a 20-7 tear and drew 10,012 for Sunday's 10-8 victory over the Wichita Wings at Richfield Coliseum. The Crunch is in first place in the East and has averaged 4,579 for 24 games.

Foreman, who bitterly disputed the January voices of doom for Cleveland, said: "Everybody always forgets that our attendance usually picks up in January, February and March. Also, this year everybody was home watching the [Persian Gulf] war in January and February. I think the end of the war has helped our attendance."

Foreman pointed to Thursday night's sellout crowd of 12,884 for the San Diego Sockers, a recent average of 10,000 a game for the St. Louis Storm and Wednesday night's crowd of 8,279 for the Kansas City Comets to support his claims.

"In a league that doesn't have a preponderance of season-ticket sales, the walk-up crowd is so important," Foreman said. "And when we get Pittsburgh and Buffalo in, that will regenerate some old rivalries with Baltimore and Cleveland."

Blast owner Ed Hale said Bernie Mullen, head of the Pittsburgh expansion franchise, "will be a credit to our league. He taught sports business at the University of Massachusetts and has a lot of common sense and intelligence."

Hale, a member of the MSL expansion committee, said he has worked closely with Mullen and that Foreman has spent a lot of time with the prospective Buffalo owners.

* Through Thursday's games, St. Louis was leading the MSL in attendance with a 7,305 average for 24 games.

San Diego was second (7,234 for 24 games), the Baltimore Blast third (7,164 for 24 games), Kansas City fourth (6,903 for 25 games), the Dallas Sidekicks fifth (6,832 for 24 games), the Wichita Wings sixth (6,502 for 23 games), the Tacoma Stars seventh (5,491 for 23 games) and Cleveland eighth (4,579 for 24 games).

* Hale said last week that he expects the team's losses to decrease for the second straight season since he has owned the franchise.

Baltimore lost nearly $1 million in the 1988-89 season before Hale bought the team, but he said the losses dropped to $500,000 in the 1989-90 season and that he expects the team to lose "$250,000 at the most" this year.

"We might even come close to breaking even if we make the playoffs," Hale said.

The Blast averaged 8,550 last season, but a $2 across-the-board increase in ticket prices this season has helped make up for the decrease in attendance.

Also, Hale said, "we don't give out many comp tickets."

* The organizers of the 1994 World Cup, which will be played in the United States, have signed MasterCard as their first major corporate sponsor.

The signing comes on the heels of the naming of Bora Milutinovic as coach of the U.S. national team by the U.S. Soccer Federation.

Milutinovic, 46, is a Yugoslav who has coached the World Cup teams of Mexico and Costa Rica. His contract will run through December 1994 at approximately $200,000 a year plus incentive bonuses.

Milutinovic coached Mexico to the quarterfinals of the 1986 World Cup and Costa Rica to the second round of the 1990 World Cup. He was hired as coach of the Costa Rica team only 45 days before the start of the 1990 World Cup.

Milutinovic replaces Bob Gansler, who resigned last month.

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