MSL, Stars' Weller mounted on precarious perch

July 25, 1991|By Sandra McKee

Tacoma coach Keith Weller's situation is much like that of the Major Soccer League today -- up in the air.

Weller is perched 40 feet above the parking lot at the Tacoma Mall. He is camping out on a five-foot by eight-foot platform for five days, encouraging indoor soccer fans to buy season tickets.

"I'm up here trying to sell a thousand season tickets by Sunday night," said Weller, who was reached above the city on his cellular telephone last night. "We don't know how it will go, but I'm game to try this. It was either me or our general manager and he said it would be more beneficial if I did it, because he wouldn't."

The Stars ownership has said the franchise has until the end of this month to sell 4,000 season tickets or the team won't be back in the MSL.

Yesterday, while Weller was above it all, the MSL owners met in Chicago.

"We've put together an overall approach to things for the coming season," said MSL commissioner Earl Foreman. "We hope to present a detailed, optimistic view by Aug. 1."

Representatives from seven teams attended the meeting: Baltimore, Cleveland, Dallas, Pittsburgh, San Diego, Tacoma and Wichita. Only St. Louis, whose owner Milan Manderic is in Spain, and Kansas City, which folded last week and is currently trying to reorganize, were unrepresented.

"We've given Dallas and Kansas City until Aug. 1 to finalize their situations," said Foreman. "Dallas is having a telethon over the weekend to encourage season ticket sales and should have a handle on their situation Monday."

As for Kansas City, Foreman said he had an interesting meeting with that city's mayor, city council and possible investors Tuesday.

"But I'm not saying if they will or they won't be back this season," Foreman said.

Presently, five teams seem ready to begin the 1991-92 season: Baltimore, Cleveland, St. Louis, San Diego and Wichita.

Foreman said he did not ask ownership how many teams were necessary for the league to operate this season.

"We discussed when to start the season, playoff fund distribution and other very positive things," Foreman said.

Still, it is unlikely the league could function with less than seven members. Which means the situations in Tacoma, Dallas, Pittsburgh and Kansas City are of prime interest.

Tacoma ownership, evidently pleased with its season ticket drive, is leaning toward returning and Pittsburgh has indicated a renewed desire to compete this season, "if everything can come together."

Evidently, part of what must come together are meetings scheduled today, among Foreman, Wichita owner Bill Oliver and the MSL Players Association "about a number of issues."

While no one will go on the record about specifics, it is obvious the player salary cap, currently at $650,000, will be on the list.

When the MSL directors cut the regular-season schedule from 52 to 40 games for the coming season, players worried openly that salary cuts would be just around the corner.

Meanwhile, back in Tacoma, Weller continues his vigil. When the Stars coach mounted his perch, with tent, cot, ice chest, television, port-a-pot, chair and cellular phone yesterday, season ticket sales stood at 1,700. Last night, they had inched up to 1,750.

"I think we can get 2,500 to 3,000 easily by the start of the season," Weller said. "Whether that's enough is up to ownership."

Weller will come down from on high Sunday evening. By next Thursday, the MSL will either take a dive or soar into the future.

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