The Maryland Bays, one of the most successful on-field franchises in the American Professional Soccer League, is no more.
Owner John Liparini said yesterday that he and co-owner John Koskinen were unable to find investors to cover the final $200,000 needed to put the team on solid footing for the coming season and all operations have ceased.
The word came the same afternoon the APSL announced it would move all of its business operations to Washington and install William C. Sage as its first commissioner. Sage and Clive Toye were APSL co-chairmen last season.
"We had a number of different people who were interested in investing with us, but in the end, nothing has worked out," Liparini said. "It's very hard to give up on it, but there's not much more to say. We're not playing this year."
The Bays owners announced at the end of last season that they were seeking investors to contribute a total of $400,000 to assure team operations for the next three seasons. But after having acquired the first $200,000, other possible investors backed out.
"I think this speaks to the difficulty of the times we're in," Liparini said. "The economy is down and we're talking about setting up a new league from scratch."
The additional investment was made necessary when the APSL was sanctioned by the U.S. Soccer Federation as a professional outdoor league. The USSF has specific guidelines for professional status and every team in the APSL was on notice that it would have to upgrade every aspect of its operation to meet the requirements.
One of those requirements was a $100,000 fee that was to have been paid by every franchise last weekend. The Bays did not pay the fee and neither did Albany nor Penn Jersey, leaving the league with five franchises for the 1992 season: defending champion San Francisco, Colorado, Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Tampa Bay.
The news caught several Bays players by surprise. Midfielder Kevin Sloan said the situation is "frustrating" in light of the World Cup coming here in 1994.
"This area wants to make a bid for games at RFK," said Sloan. "It's a difficult thing to expect, when the area won't even support a localteam. It's maddening."
Goalkeeper Steve Powers said he "just can't believe no one had the money to invest in a team like the Bays," which has lost but eight games in the past two years.
"The Bays were unique," said Powers. "It was a local team with local talent and it had a very positive influence in this area. It's just a sad day. You'd think with our record and our contribution to the community, that someone would want to keep us around."
In San Francisco, Black Hawks owner Dan Van Voorhis said he and his fellow owners had each received a letter from Liparini informing them of the Bays' decision not to continue.
"We're very sorry about it," said Van Voorhis, whose team lost the1990 championship game to the Bays. "We had a strong rivalry and we will miss the competition."
The Bays had a five-year franchise record of 79-31, including one league title in 1990. They also won the American Conference title last season, with an APSL-record performance of 19-2.
"What bad news," said University of Maryland Baltimore County soccer coach Pete Caringi, who was a Bays coach for three seasons, including the 1990 championship season. "I always kept thinking someone would come up with the money, but I'm not really surprised. I know John Liparini did everything he could to keep this team going."
On the field, the team was stocked. Forward Jean Harbor, now with the Baltimore Blast, earned the APSL's Most Valuable Player Award last season, as did his teammate Philip Gyau the year before. The team featured U.S. National Team members Bruce Murray, Desmond Armstrong and Jeff Agoos.
Off the field, however, the story was not of success. From the first exhibition season in 1987, the team lost money. Estimates are the Bays lost between $150,000 to $200,000 in each of their years of operation.
"I think we made an impact," Liparini said. "But we just weren't able to get where we wanted to go. Still, I've met a lot of good people, there have been great fans, good players and a lot of good moments I'll always remember. And, who knows, maybe we'll be back in 1993."