Blast coach Kenny Cooper, a prospective new owner for an indoor soccer team in Baltimore and National Professional Soccer League commissioner Steve Paxos will meet here this afternoon to discuss the option of joining the NPSL and keeping the game alive in Baltimore.
"My goal is to see soccer continue here," Cooper said. "I'm looking at all the options. Nothing is finalized, but the NPSL makes sense to me. It has regional rivalries -- Harrisburg is just up the road. And they've learned a lot from the mistakes the North American Soccer League and the MSL have made."
Cooper also has received an invitation from Dallas Sidekicks owner Don Carter to be his guest in Dallas Thursday, with several other former MSL coaches and officials, to discuss ideas he has for forming another league. Cooper said he will decide tomorrow or early Thursday about whether to make the trip.
Cooper would reveal few details about the team's prospective owner other than he had been a Blast season ticket holder who is saddened by the demise of the league, and that he has "the means to keep indoor soccer alive in Baltimore."
The Blast, in operation here since 1980, went out of business Friday when the Major Soccer League folded. The name Blast is still owned by Ed Hale, who owned the franchise through its last three years.
"This will be a new beginning," Cooper said. "Ed still owns the name Blast, and it is a negotiable item."
Yesterday, Cooper spent much of his day on the telephone talking to supportive sponsors and in Washington, where he met with Centre Management officials to negotiate a new lease at the Arena. There will be a second meeting today.
"Right now, we don't have a lease, but the meeting was congenial and they've agreed to put a hold on the Blast dates -- for the moment," Cooper said. "But we've got to move fast. I understand their position. Other people want those dates and they want to know where soccer stands in Baltimore. On our side, we've made an economic impact in the city, and we have to make economic sense of what we attempt to do in the future. We want to play in the Arena. We've had a lot of wonderful times there. And if we can't play there, where?"
For the past several years, the MSL and the NPSL were rivals. The MSL considered itself the only "professional" league in the country, while the NPSL followed its own indoor game plan of Americanization and low overhead in terms of salaries, to build a stable base for itself that reached 10 teams last month when a new franchise in Buffalo chose to join the NPSL instead of the MSL.
Two years ago, the NPSL and the MSL considered talking about merger, but neither could get past the issues of league pride and league payroll. The unionized MSL's salary cap of $550,000 was about twice that of the NPSL's.
Since the MSL folded Friday, the NPSL has been contacted by Baltimore, Cleveland, St. Louis, Wichita and Dallas. Paxos spent yesterday in St. Louis, before leaving for his meeting here.
The main philosophical differences between the NPSL and MSL are:
* The NPSL demands each team's roster have 14 American players and only two foreign players with green cards allowing them to work in this country.
* The NPSL "stresses fiscal responsibilities" to avoid the mistakes made by the now-defunct North American and Major Soccer leagues.
* The NPSL stresses offensive play, like the MSL did in its early days. The NPSL gives two points for a regular goal, three points nTC for a goal outside the yellow line (red line in the MSL), and one point each for a shootout goal and a power play goal.
"I don't want to mislead anyone," Cooper said. "Nothing is decided at this point. But it is a whole new situation. Usually, we have a team and a place to play and finding an owner is the problem. This time we've got an owner, but we're homeless. Hopefully, we won't be homeless for long."
NOTES: Cooper said that he would hope Domenic Mobilio, the Blast All-Star leading scorer and a green card holder, would be part of any new franchise here. He also said his assistant, Janet Forrester is working on acquiring a green card for midfield/defender Emil Dragicevic, a native of Zagreb, Croatia.
"We've made application for his green card," Cooper said. "If there is a team, our plan is that he'll be part of it. It's just one more obstacle."
Former Blast midfielder Ali Kazemaini today is to be named the new soccer coach at John Carroll University, a Division III school in Cleveland.