England is knocking on door to MSL

The Major Soccer League, of which the Baltimore Blast is a member, may go international.

"Two English teams, Sheffield and Birmingham, want to join our league," says Blast owner Ed Hale, who is chairman of the MSL executive committee.


Does it make sense for an indoor league that has sometimes struggled to survive to add two teams from across the Atlantic?

"It's no harder for us to travel to England than it is for us to fly to San Diego," Hale says.


Or to Tacoma. The last trip the Blast made there took 11 hours. It doesn't take that long to get to England.

The Blast, you'll recall, went to England last winter and beat Oldham, 6-1.

It appears that it will go back to England for more international competition late next month. At that time talks with be held in Birmingham and Sheffield.

Kenny Cooper, the Blast coach, is a native of Blackpool, England. He has been discussing English participation in the MSL for 10 years.

"We have seven teams now," says Drew Forrester, the Blast's vice president of operations. "If we added two from England, we could play in two divisions. Baltimore, Cleveland, St. Louis and the two English teams would be in one and the West Coast teams could be in the other. That way, they'd never have to travel to England."

The Blast, which is 7-6 and 1 1/2 games out of first place, next plays Friday in Cleveland. Saturday night league-leading Wichita comes to the Arena.

Goalie Cris Vaccaro, who took a shot in the face last Friday in Cleveland, is still listed as questionable for this Friday.

Hale, incidentally, may have been misunderstood by some when he announced last week that the Blast is seeking better support from the business community. Says the banker-sportsman:


"We don't expect the kind of corporate support the Orioles get. Far from it. If a business buys four Blast season tickets, that would be great. We'd like to get a little bit of help from a lot of people."

Of the 3,000 Blast season tickets sold, only 220 have been bought by businesses.

* I hate to say this about our old friend, ex-Baltimore Colts coach Don Shula, and his Miami Dolphins, but you have to wonder if they deserve to be in the NFL playoffs. Sunday they could have clinched a wild-card berth but they blew a 13-point, fourth-quarter lead and lost, 38-30, at San Diego.

The Jets are even less deserving. Playing at home, they lost, 6-3, to the Patriots. Fittingly, the Jets and Dolphins meet Sunday in Miami, the winner to get the wild card. It's getting ridiculous when a team with a losing record (Jets, 7-8) goes into the final week of the season fighting to make the playoffs.

* The Patriots' Dick MacPherson is my choice for NFL Coach of the Year, winning six games (seven if they win in Cincinnati Sunday) in his first year with that bunch.

* Before Earl Hawkins takes his UMBC basketball players to Illinois Saturday, he has to teach them that a game lasts 40 minutes -- not 39 minutes, 49 seconds. At that point at Loyola Saturday UMBC made a three-pointer to tie the score at 76, but as Hawkins' guys celebrated Loyola won the game, 78-76, with an uncontested layup at the other end by Michael Reese. The mental lapse cost UMBC a chance to win in OT.


* Holy Cross' Mark Duffner, the first man Andy Geiger called to discuss the football coaching vacancy at Maryland, may not be as great as his phenomenal 60-5-1 record indicates. Duffner, with scholarship players, has been beating a lot of schools with no scholarships.

Now Holy Cross, in the Patriot League, must give up its own scholarships. This would be a good time for Duffner to move on.

* Walt Gutowski, who is working with the Maryland Stadium Authority in the campaign to bring the NFL back to Baltimore, says commissioner Paul Tagliabue's eyes lit up in New York last week when Boogie Weinglass told him, "We're not in this to make money."

Says Gutowski, who was the PR man for the Baltimore Colts: "The commissioner got a look on his face that seemed to say, 'That's what we're looking for.' Any prospective owner who thinks he's going to make a lot of money is wrong. That's just the way the economics are now."