Indoors and out, soccer's hierarchy is self-destructive mix of overpadded egos


You've got to hand it to the people running soccer in the United States. No one knows how to self-destruct better than they do.

U.S. Soccer Federation president Alan Rothenberg came into office two years ago, hoping to bring the outdoor and indoor branches together. He formed a committee, whose job it was to work toward developing an outdoor league that would be in place by the World Cup's arrival here in 1994.

What happened? It fell apart. Why? Because indoor and outdoor representatives couldn't work together. Now, a recent appeal from Major Soccer League commissioner Earl Foreman to American Professional Soccer League commissioner Bill Sage to re-convene the group has, so far, met with silence.

When the APSL decided to go forward with five teams two weeks ago, the MSL offered to field a team, if it would help the outdoor game.

The response? Outright rejection. Sage's first reaction was negative, not so much because of the substance of the offer, but because the MSL let the media in on it. No doubt in Sage's eyes, Foreman had one-upped him. People who love soccer might

wonder, so what? What real difference did it make, except in terms of personal ego?

But in American soccer, ego is everything.

Sage said the APSL was interested only in moving to the highest echelon of pro soccer and didn't need "some kind of hybrid" from the MSL. He offered instead to let them "get their feet wet" in the outdoor game in a "Knockout Tournament."

Which begs the question: Where do outdoor proponents think indoor players come from? The moon? Every indoor player was an outdoor player first.

To Sage's credit, he did write a thank-you note and again offered the MSL an opportunity to compete in the tournament. And, to Foreman's credit, he has decided the MSL would like to play.

But the bickering goes on.

And, making matters worse, those in different leagues within the indoor game can't get along either. The MSL and the National Professional Soccer League would probably make one great league. Together they'd be a 17-team force, with clubs in Detroit, Milwaukee, Chicago, Dallas, San Diego, Tulsa, Baltimore and more. A true national, coast-to-coast league. Inviting to both national sponsors and, perhaps, television.

But when the MSL invited the NPSL to a meeting here last year to discuss a merger, a power struggle broke out, with both sides leaving in a huff.

Each little league, outdoors and indoors, is an empire to those who run them. And each empire is surrounded by very high walls. They must be, because no one seems to be able to see the big picture. The earth is flat. And so it was, for all intents and purposes, until someone went out and proved it was round.

As each league teeter-totters between survival and failure, those in charge give the impression they'd rather see the sport go down in flames, if the alternative was admitting the other guy might know a little something that could make a difference.

In Tacoma last week, Stars vice president Stan Naccarato voiced his thoughts on what might strengthen the MSL. He wasn't very subtle. But when others in the league were asked about his opinions, they were so put off by the fact he said things openingly, they refused to give much serious consideration to anything he said.

And that's still not the worst of it.

It is one thing when the MSL owners dislike each other and their players' union. That's how it often works. But many players don't like their union either.

Many are saying they don't know what Major Indoor Soccer League Players Association director John Kerr is doing. And Kerr, it would seem, does not know the minds of all the players he represents.

Kerr is going after MSL management with complaints of unfair labor practices to the National Labor Relations Board.

Players in the union are going after Kerr, claiming he does more for those not playing than for those who are.

All in all, it is one heck of a master plan for destruction. You've got to hand it to the people involved in soccer. Their worst enemies couldn't design it better.

* SEASON'S BEST: Blast goalkeeper Cris Vaccaro and Wichita forward Dale Ervine has each earned his third MSL Player of the Week award, a league best. Vaccaro earned the defensive award for his 13-save performance in the Blast's 5-4 victory over Tacoma Saturday. Ervine earned the offensive award with four goals and three assists in two Wichita games.

* LOYOLA ADDITION: Loyola College defender Tom Donahue has been added to the College Indoor Soccer Showcase that will be played here Feb. 13. Donahue replaces defender Kevin King of Tulsa.

* MSL-LANIA: The Blast, 8-21 in one-goal games last season, is now 4-4 . . . Cleveland's Zoran Karic has an assist in 15 straight games, two short of the MSL record set in 1979-80 by Cleveland teammate Kai Haaskivi . . . The Dallas Sidekicks will retire Doc Lawson's No. 22 jersey March 6. Lawson retired at the end of last season as the only player to play in each of the MSL's first 13 seasons. . . . The San Diego Sockers have a league- and season-best six-game winning streak on the line tonight at Wichita.

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