Dallas makes MSL save

August 14, 1991|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Evening Sun Staff

For a member of an association that just barely escaped with its life, Blast owner Ed Hale sounded awfully confident.

The Major Soccer League got an almost literal reprieve of execution from the governor yesterday, allowing it to stay alive for at least one more season, and Hale was already talking about expansion.

"I think we're not going to be in the same position this time next year," said Hale. "It's extremely important for us to bring in some new markets next year, and I think we can do that."

Hale said perhaps as soon as next season the league can look at places like Anaheim, Calif., Pittsburgh or Buffalo, and possibly even England to expand to.

Given the current state of the MSL, that may be wishful thinking, but at least Hale and his colleagues now have a league to be wishful about.

That came courtesy of former Dallas owner Donald J. Carter, who agreed to return and buy a majority interest in the team, bringing the league's membership to seven for next season.

The league had teetered on the brink of oblivion, as Kansas City folded, officials from Pittsburgh backed out of their expansion team, and Dallas representatives searched for the final $100,000 to meet MSL demands for returning next season.

That left six teams (Baltimore, St. Louis, San Diego, Wichita, Cleveland and Tacoma), one short of the number that MSL owners and commissioner Earl Foreman wanted to continue.

Foreman said Carter, who also owns the NBA Dallas Mavericks, read about the league's plight in a newspaper article while in a Fayetteville, N.C., hotel around 7:15 yesterday morning, and called him about 30 minutes later to offer his help.

"It took us about 30 seconds [to reach an agreement with Carter]," said Foreman. "I don't know who delivered that paper, but I want to erect a monument to him."

Carter will own 51 percent of the new Dallas team, which will not have to pay an expansion fee, and John Aleckner will own the other 49 percent.

Now that the question of the league's existence has been settled, MSL officials can move forward with the nuts and bolts of how to operate in the coming season, which will begin on Oct. 24 in Dallas with the new franchise meeting San Diego.

Each team will play 40 games in a one-division setup, with the playoffs to begin in April.

Foreman said the league's competition committee will determine the format for both the playoffs and the All-Star Game, to be played at the Baltimore Arena next winter.

In addition, each of the owners will have to post a $350,000 line of credit by next Monday.

Foreman, admitting that the last week had been a period of "trying times" for the league, brushed aside questions that the league's credibility with its fans had been jeopardized.

"We'll have to see what happens," said Foreman. "I think the league's credible. We have a direction and I expect to move forward.

"I think we can get it straightened out with the right ownership. It's a question of ownership, pure and simple. I think we'll be getting to a point where we'll look at this next summer and laugh."

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