The Washington Dips, formerly the Diplomats, get off the mark today when they play the Fort Lauderdale Strikers (formerly the Miami Toros) in a preseason game at Wilde Lake High School in Columbia, Md., at 2:30 p.m.

The Dips meet the same Strikers in the second of six exhibition matches Sunday at City Stadium in Richmond, also at 2:30.

"It's time to get the soccer wheels rolling," said player-coach Alan Spavin, who is directing the team in head coach Dennis Viollet's absence.

Viollet is home in England, to line up some help for his team.

Four of the top Dips of last year may not return this season.

Paul Cannell, Tom McConville, Derek Jefferson and Tony Macken, all instrumental as Washington landed its first postseason berth in the three-year history of the club last year, may not be released by their teams in England. Because of the bad winter weather in England, the soccer season there is running until mid-May.

The Dips play their first regular-season game against the defending NASL champion Toronto Metros April 10 at RFK Stadium.

"We've had good workouts and are very optimistic," said Spavin. "We've been out here three weeks now and we're happy about what we've seen thus far. We're really looking forward to playing at the stadium."

Newcomers that Washington is counting on striker Peter Silverster, obtained in a trade from the Las Vegas Quicksilvers, and Gene Mishalow, this year's No. 1 draft choice out of Southern Illinois University.

Prior to today's exhibition, the final of the Maryland Cup for 11-year-old boys will be held at 12:30. The finalists are the Sportsman Blue Devils of Montgomery County and the Columbia Boys Club.