This time, MSL might actually fold, Hale says Blast owner cites July 1 as deadline

June 20, 1992|By Bill Free | Bill Free,Staff Writer

The annual summer effort to save the Major Soccer League is on, and this time even Blast owner Ed Hale says the 14-year-old league might not survive.

The St. Louis Storm folded yesterday and now there are only five teams left.

"I'm not here to say we're going out of business, but we're as close as you can get," said Hale, who called a news conference yesterday after he participated in a teleconference call with the other MSL owners.

Hale said the owners were working on two plans to save the league and if those failed over the next 11 days, the league probably would fold on July 1.

Hale said the first plan is to bring a Mexican all-star team into the league as the sixth club. The second possibility is to have a group of former and current NBA owners help provide arenas for the MSL to operate in the summer.

But Hale said he didn't think indoor soccer in the summer would work in Baltimore.

"It doesn't look very good at this point," Hale said of the future of the league. He said his fellow owners weren't happy about his decision to call a news conference yesterday. "They were afraid of what I might say. But I wanted to bring everybody up to date on the condition of the league instead of letting rumors fly around.

"I've made it clear that only five teams is not practical, and it's embarrassing to me. The fact that Buffalo decided to go to the other league [National Professional Soccer League] is a major blow. It gets tiresome to go through this every summer."

MSL commissioner Earl Foreman refused to set deadlines last night when assessing the league's future.

"We're having a meeting June 29 to see where we stand and make a decision on the future," said Foreman. "I'm not setting any deadlines. We're working on a two or three-tiered approach to an overall plan for the league. I think we've got a chance of making it. We have a solid nucleus of five teams and now we just need to add a little to it."

Foreman said there is still hope of saving indoor soccer in St. Louis.

"St. Louis has to come back to us and said they have enough financing to make it," said Foreman.

Blast coach Kenny Cooper said that Birmingham and Sheffield from England would likely come into the MSL if the league went to summer play. Cooper said the English teams couldn't join the league during the winter because a fall and winter schedule clashed with their outdoor season.

If the league collapses, it would have significant repercussions for other businesses, especially the Baltimore Arena, where Blast home games can make up 26 of 200 events in a year, said Bob Zurfluh, spokesman for Capital Centre Management, manager of the Arena.

"Any time an event -- especially a multiple event like this -- is in trouble, it is very significant and of concern," Zurfluh said.

Observers say at least part of the MSL's troubles are related to competition from the non-union NPSL. The two leagues do not compete in the same cities, but the competition for sponsors, advertisers and expansion cities is fierce.

"We're stable. Our teams keep coming back year after year," said Paul Luchowski, operations director for the NPSL.

The league just added its 10th city, one that the MSL had courted heavily: Buffalo, N.Y. The MSL has lost three teams in the past year -- Kansas City, Tacoma and now St. Louis.

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