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Soccer league fizzles, extinguishes city's Blast Last-minute talks to replace teams fail

July 11, 1992|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Staff Writer

"It was all kind of fragmented, not all feasible in such a shortime," said Mr. Foreman. "In my heart, I knew we were in trouble."

The league's demise comes just two years before the World Cup, soccer's top event, will be played in the United States.

"I had hoped there would be a game plan to keep the leagustable until the World Cup," said San Diego coach Ron Newman, whose team won seven of the last eight league championships. "I thought if we had reached that point, soccer would have really taken off in this country." Last year the league's salary cap was reduced for the fourth time to $600,000, down from a one-time high of $1,275,000.

In 14 seasons, the MISL and MSL drew more than 27 million people and had 32 franchises. Average regular season attendance was 7,644.

"I could never get the motor revved up again," said Mr. Foreman. "What happened? I don't know. If I had the answer, I'd write a book."

Major Soccer League chronology

1978-1979: MISL co-founders Earl Foreman and Ed Tepper grant charter franchises to teams in six cities -- the Cincinnati Kids, Cleveland Force, Houston Summit, New York Arrows, Philadelphia Fever and Pittsburgh Spirit. The teams play a 24-game schedule.

1979-1980: The St. Louis Steamers become one of 10 league teams and make their home debut at the Checkerdome, drawing a single-game attendance record of 18,005.

1982-1983: In its fifth season, the league now has 14 teams in two divisions, playing a 48-game schedule. MISL makes its network debut on CBS-TV, which carries a Baltimore at Cleveland playoff game on May 7.

1984-1985: After one season with 12 teams, league goes back to 14 members and sets an all-time season total attendance record 3,109,374. MISL founder and commissioner Earl M. Foreman announces his retirement on May 1. Francis L. Dale is named as Foreman's successor.

1986-1987: Twelve teams play an expanded 52-game schedule. ESPN agrees to televise 18 games. League sets an all-time average attendance record of 9,025 per game.

1987-1988: League drops to 11 teams but expands schedule to 56 games. Owners warn that financial troubles could mean the end of the league, so MISL players agree to a 33 percent across-the-board pay cut.

1989-1990: Foreman returns as commissioner after Bill Kentling announces his resignation in May, 1989. Eight clubs play a 52-game schedule. In July, the league drops the "indoor" from

name, becoming Major Soccer League.

1990-1991: The same eight teams -- Baltimore, Cleveland, Kansas City, Wichita, San Diego, St. Louis, Tacoma and Dallas -- are back. In August, the league and the players' association agree to a salary cap that will reduce team rosters to 16 players with a maximum salary of $60,000 each.

1991-1992: Minus the Kansas City Comets, last season's teams return for a 40-game schedule, with average attendance of 7,851 -- up from 6,566 the year before. MSL office relocates to Baltimore. MSL terminates Tacoma Stars franchise on June 5. On July 10, the league announces it is ceasing operations.

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