Let's just call the MSL the "Maybe" Soccer League.
The Major Soccer League avoided another collision with oblivion yesterday, when players association executive director John Kerr and MSL commissioner Earl Foreman came to a verbal agreement 10 minutes before Foreman was to meet with his directors to fold the league.
"When I reached Earl, he told me he was about to wrap up the league," said Kerr. "I asked the status of the league. I asked if we agree in principle to these demands, will the league go on? He said, pending the situation in Dallas, which he described as 99 percent sure, that it would.
"It was the first time he had told me the league status. So that the league can go on, I agreed, knowing we're not far apart. Hopefully, we'll know definitely by Monday. Maybe we've saved it for another season and maybe things will start to get better."
Foreman announced on a conference call yesterday afternoon that the MSLPA had accepted the owners' ultimatum of July 25, to accept a $100,000 cut in the salary cap, a reduced roster from 18 to 16 players and a decrease in the letter of credit from $500,000 to $350,000.
The deadline for the Dallas franchise to right itself is next Monday. Foreman said he expects that situation to be in hand before that, but that a conference call among the league's owners Monday will verify the situation and then ratify the agreement with the MSLPA. The agreement will run through the 1992-93 season.
The letters of credit from ownership is due Wednesday, Aug. 14. Foreman said San Diego owner Oscar Ancira Jr. already has sent in his check unsolicited.
Also considered stable at this time are Baltimore, Cleveland, St. Louis, Tacoma and Wichita.
"We're very comfortable with seven teams if it comes to that," said Ancira, who with his father Oscar Ancira Sr. purchased the Sockers this summer. "We're confident that we can make a difference in this league once it gets going and we're looking forward to participating at the league level, helping to bring in sponsorships and new franchises -- ahead of time, before the very last moment.
"I'm really delighted. I can't wait for opening day."
Pittsburgh owner Bernie Mullin, on the other hand, has admitted openly he is unsure whether his Spirit franchise will operate this season, indicating that if Dallas does not come in, he will have to think long and hard before committing to a seven-team league.
The schedule for the 1991-92 season is in the making. Foreman said he hopes to have a rough draft by Monday and the regular season should begin in late October.
"This wasn't a pleasant process," said Foreman. "I'm sorry it reached the point of acrimony, but neither John [Kerr] nor myself will allow those feelings to continue. We [the owners] are most appreciative that the players have once again made the sacrifice necessary to keep the league going."
In 1988, the MSL players were the first professional athletes in any sport to agree to a cutback in wages to keep their game afloat. Since then, the owners have asked for three more cutbacks.
"It has been an unfortunate situation through the years where ownership has not been shored up enough to avoid these financial problems," Foreman said. "I think we're getting to the point where we can avoid it in the future. But the problems are problems of the economy, as well as our own problems."
Foreman said he is aware of the counter-productive nature of the negotiations, the threats and the bickering and said he hoped it would soon become "a thing of the past."