Ex-owner helps buy Sidekicks Move saves MSL for another season

August 14, 1991|By Bill Free

Donald Carter woke up yesterday and decided to save the Major Soccer League.

Carter, owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks, re-entered the MSL as majority owner of the Dallas Sidekicks, giving the league the seventh team it needed to continue.

According to MSL commissioner Earl Foreman, Carter, who is traveling on business, got up at 6:15 a.m. in Fayetteville, N.C., and read in a newspaper that the MSL was ready to fold yesterday if investors weren't found for the Dallas franchise, which had ceased operations at the end of the 1990-91 season.

Carter made several telephone calls to former Sidekicks president Gordon Jago, and, by 7:50 a.m., Carter and Foreman were finalizing a deal to own 51 percent of the Sidekicks.

Carter had owned the Sidekicks during the 1984-86 seasons before selling the team to Stan Finney after numerous financial losses.

Foreman said it took only "30 seconds" for him to welcome Carter back to the MSL, enabling the league to operate for a 14th season. The MSL owners were prepared to pull the plug on the league if financing hadn't been found for the Sidekicks by 3 p.m. yesterday.

Dallas became the seventh team in the MSL, the number mandated by league owners to continue operating this season. The other teams are the Baltimore Blast, San Diego Sockers, St. Louis Storm, Wichita Wings, Cleveland Crunch and Tacoma Stars.

These seven teams will operate in one division, as the league reverts to the format it had in 1988-89. After the MSL had grown to eight teams in two divisions in 1989-90, it looked as if an expansion team in Pittsburgh would give the league nine teams this season.

But some of the investors in the Pittsburgh franchise withheld their support when the league ran into problems in Dallas and the Kansas City Comets ceased operations last month. Now, Pittsburgh president Bernie Mullin said it is too late for him to put together a team for 1991-92, and the league will have to wait until next season for the Spirit.

Foreman said there were some alternative financing plans that Jago had gathered for the Sidekicks, but the league "preferred to have Donald Carter aboard." John Aleckner of Dallas was the major player in the financing plans before Carter called, and Aleckner will own 49 percent of the team.

Dallas needed to come up with $450,000 to operate in the MSL this season, including a $350,000 letter of credit and $100,000 starting fees.

Foreman said: "There were a number of reasons Donald Carter came forward. But he said the primary reason was that he was impressed by the Sidekicks players who stayed in Dallas this summer to work at clinics and camps when they didn't even know if they would have a team."

Foreman said the league will open the 1991-92 season Oct. 24, with the Sockers at the Sidekicks, and run through April 5.

There will be a 40-game schedule, mostly on weekends, and the players have "basically" accepted numerous financial rollbacks in their collective bargaining agreement with the owners.

The maximum season salary per player has been reduced from $72,000 to $60,000, the team salary cap has been cut from $655,000 to $525,000 and the letter of credit posted to cover players' salaries in case a team folds has been rolled back to $350,000 from $500,000.

With the MSL reduced again and surviving another summer crisis, Foreman was asked about the credibility of the league yesterday.

"I'm not going to get into any philosophical discussions about credibility," said Foreman. "You can take it any way you want. We've run into some problems, but we'll still be looking to expand into Pittsburgh, Buffalo and possibly San Antonio. There's also hope we can put a team back in Kansas City in the 1992-93 season."

Blast midfielder Billy Ronson said yesterday he was elated just to find out "there's going to be a league. It's like winning the lottery for me. I'm sure most of the players throughout the league feel the same way."

Changing face of MSL

How the composition of the Major Soccer League has changed since its first season as a six-team, one-division league in 1978-79, with number of teams and divisions:

Season.. ..No..Div..Teams in.. .. .. .. .. ..Teams out

1979-80.. .10.. .2..Buffalo, Hartford,.. .. .Cincinnati

.. .. .. .. .. .. ..Detroit, St. Louis,.. .. .. .. .. ..

.. .. .. .. .. .. ..Wichita.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..

1980-81.. .12.. .3..Baltimore, Chicago,.. .. Houston, Detroit,

.. .. .. .. .. .. ..Denver, Phoenix, S.F.. ..Pittsburgh

1981-82.. .13.. .2..New Jersey, Memphis.. .. S.F., Chicago,

.. .. .. .. .. ..Kansas City,.. .. .. .. .Hartford

.. .. .. .. .. .. ..Pittsburgh .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..

1982-83.. .14.. .2..Chicago, Golden Bay,.. ..Denver, New Jersey,

.. .. .. .. .. ..Los Angeles, San Diego.. Philadelphia

1983-84.. .12.. .2..Tacoma.. .. .. .. .. .. .Chicago, San Diego

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Golden Bay

jTC 1984-85.. .14.. .2..Minnesota, Dallas.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..

.. .. .. .. .. .. ..Las Vegas, San Diego.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..

1985-86.. .12.. .2.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Las Vegas, New York

1986-87.. .12.. .2..New York.. .. .. .. .. ..Pittsburgh

1987-88.. .11.. .2.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. New York

1988-89.. ..7.. .1.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Chicago, Cleveland,

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Minnesota, St. Louis

1989-90.. ..8.. .2..Cleveland, St. Louis.. ..Los Angeles

1990-91.. ..8.. .2.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..

1991-92.. ..7.. .1.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Kansas City

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