The Major Soccer League will hold a conference call among its owners today, after which commissioner Earl Foreman is expected to announce what will happen for the league's 1992-93 season.
The MSL has been scrambling to stay afloat, since the Tacoma Stars closed their doors two weeks ago. Insiders have speculated that the MSL is considering options, which include operating as is, taking a one-year sabbatical, developing an indoor-outdoor format, or ceasing operation.
The MSL received another blow yesterday, when an ownership group in Buffalo, N.Y., announced it will join the National Professional Soccer League in the fall.
At a news conference yesterday Jim May, the vice president/general manager of the Buffalo Blizzard, said the ownership group was looking for stability. With the addition of Buffalo, the NPSL has 10 franchises and plays in such cities as Milwaukee, Detroit and Chicago. It operates without a players' union and under a salary cap that is approximately one-fifth of the MSL's $530,000.
The MSL had hoped Buffalo would join, thus assuring it of six franchises for the coming season. There are five solid MSL teams: the Blast, San Diego Sockers, Dallas Sidekicks, Cleveland Crunch and Wichita Wings. The St. Louis Storm, which led the MSL in attendance last season, has reportedly shut down operations and workers have removed furniture from its offices.
The Storm, owned by Milan Mandaric, has been for sale for the past six months. Foreman, who is said to be working on some way to save the St. Louis operation, said yesterday that he would have no comment until after today's conference call.
Summer upheaval is nothing new to the MSL or its fans. Every year the league seems on the brink of disaster. But this season, the prospect of the league's demise is unexpected.
League-wide attendance was up 15 percent last season and the shakiest franchise, Tacoma, had called a news conference in March to announce it would definitely operate next season.
In St. Louis, the Storm averaged 10,000 fans and Mandaric was working with a group that seemed ready to buy the team. Everyone seemed certain that deal would be worked out.
But then came June. Tacoma rescinded its commitment and St. Louis still has no new owners.
A hastily called meeting of the executive committee here on Monday, found the group renewing its commitment to go forward with six teams.
"But," said Blast owner Ed Hale, "I won't go forward with five."
That is a view held by most of the other owners. But in San Diego, owner Oscar Ancira could not resist a laugh.
"Last year, we said we wouldn't go forward with less than eight, but then we did with seven," Ancira said. "Now we're down to six and we're being very macho saying we won't do it with less than that. I don't know what is going to happen. I'm a rookie at this. I don't know how to read the league signs. One minute I think everything is fine and the next, it's not so fine."
The picture may come into focus by this evening.