In one day, Baltimore's indoor soccer prospects changed greatly.
Last night, National Professional Soccer League commissioner Steve Paxos left town with a formal application for a local franchise's admission into his league, and Ed Tepper, commissioner of the new Arena Soccer League, said he expects to award a franchise in his spring league to another group of city investors today.
Tepper, who co-founded the Major Soccer League with Earl Foreman in 1978, said yesterday he anticipates awarding an ASL franchise to an ownership group represented by attorney Ben Neil.
Neil, who was in court yesterday, did not return calls last night.
The Arena Soccer League group has nothing to do with the continuing efforts of Blast coach Kenny Cooper to keep indoor soccer in Baltimore. Cooper and a prospective owner met with Paxos yesterday. While waiting for his plane last night at Baltimore Washington International Airport, Paxos said he will present a membership application from Cooper's group at the NPSL's board of directors meeting Monday.
"I feel confident it will go through," Paxos said. "It's a very viable group. I only met one of the principals, and I got the impression he might bring three or four people with him. But the gentleman I met is very capable of doing the entire thing on his own if he wants to."
An NPSL franchise costs "more than $100,000 and less than half a million," Paxos said.
"I'm elated at the thought of having Baltimore in the league," he said. "Baltimore has proven it has tremendous support of soccer, and I think with Kenny Cooper's involvement, it will be a premier franchise."
Paxos said he anticipates applications from two groups representing former MSL cities before Monday and could also have one or two non-MSL city applications for 1993-94.
"It's a bittersweet victory," Paxos said, referring to the claiming of Baltimore for the NPSL. "It was a sad day for soccer when the MSL folded, but at the same time, it is an opportunity for us. . . . I think in the long run, it will be a very positive thing for the indoor game."
The NPSL plays a 40-game schedule from November through March, with playoffs in April. A Baltimore team probably would become part of the American Division, which includes Detroit, Canton and Dayton, Ohio, and Harrisburg, Pa.
The Arena Soccer League will play May through July, on Thursday nights. Tepper said a franchise costs $20,000 and players will be paid $200 to $250 on a game-by-game basis, like the Major Indoor Lacrosse League.
Tepper said he has had informal talks with Centre Management about using the Baltimore Arena in the summer and has been told the building is available. He said formal talks will follow.
ASL rosters are to be filled with local talent, mostly former college players and pros who are pursuing other business interests, but who want to stay in the game.
Tepper said he expects to have 10 to 12 teams in place for two divisions next spring. Baltimore, he said, would be part of a division with Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Richmond, Va., Providence, R.I., and New York. Franchises have been awarded in those cities.
On the prospective list are Winston-Salem, N.C., Atlanta, Jacksonville, Fla., Orlando, Fla., and Miami.
"I think in today's economy this is actually the best way to develop a new sports league," Tepper said. "My plan is much the same as the one being followed by the box lacrosse league that is doing very well, growing a little bit each year."