The National Football League Players Association has received approval in writing from 265 of the 335 players in the North American Soccer League to act as their representative in negotiating a general contract with the league.
Thus, the NASL will form a union, as Kyle Rote Jr. of the Dallas Tornado preducted lst month. The first meeting of the group is set for Aug. 29 in Washington - the day after the NASL championship game.
The NELPA sent out approval cards to players in the league late in July and easily received more than the necessary 155 signatures. Rote, Al Trost of the St. Louis Stars and Johnny Kerr, who was released by the Washington Diplomats July 17, were key organizing forces.
The average NASL salary - other than for The Cosmos, who have three multimillion-dollar players under contract - is believed to be less than $10,000 a season.
Soccer may not have made it over the hump in Washington yet, but it has made the big time in New York.
Not only are The Cosmos averaging close to 34,000 fans per home contest in plush Giants Stadium, they are receiving the kind of media and fan treatment seen in this area only when the Redskins are around.
In most North American Soccer League cities, both locker rooms open within two or three minutes after a game. With the Cosmos it is closer to 15. The doors do not open to the press until the players have showered and started getting dressed.
Once opened, the locker room resembles a three-ring cirus. In one corner, Giogio Chinaglia stands in a flowing blue and gold robe, combing his hair as a dozen women surround him.
In another corner, Franz Beckenbauer, speaking in rapidly improving English, holds court - mostly with foreign reporters.
And in the middle of it all is Pele - eatched closely by his personal body guard. Cameras flash all around him. Reporters and fans jostle for position. He sits and talks to everyone who wants an audience and is usually the last man out of the locker room.
"I don't want to take anything away from Eddie Firmani because I think he's a fine coach. But he doesn't have to coach that team," Dips coach Alan Spavin said after his team's 8-2 annihilation at the hands of the Cosmos.
"Those players do things out there no coach can teach. They don't need any coaching. They just go out and play."
The non-millionaire Cosmos also receive their share of attention. Many New York papers have taken to double-staffing Cosmos' games and rarely does a day go by without at least one story on the team in each newspaper.
When Pele plays his "farewell" game on Oct. 1 against his old team, Santos of Brazil, it will not mark the end of his relationship with the Cosmos.
Under an agreement made when he first signed with the team three years ago, Pele will continue to make personal appearances, take part iin promotions and travel on behalf of the Cosmos and Warner Communications, which owns the team. No time limit has been set on the contract.
"Pele can work for us for as long as he wants to," Cosmos President Ahmet Ertegun said."We feel we have more than recouped our original investment in him."
Ertegun also denied the rumors that Pele had turned down a $10 million, three-year contract to continue playing. "Somebody just made that story up," he said.
It now appears likely that NASL attendance for the year, including the playoffs, will easily top the three million mark, breaking last year's mark by more than 50,000.
The Cosmos and Minnesota Kicks are both averaging over 30,000 fans per game, to lead the league. The Washington Diplomats are eighth in attendance, averaging slightly more than 11,000 fans a contest. The Dips are hoping to draw close the 50,000 when they close the season Saturday night against the Cosmos.
It should be noted the NASL attendance figures do not tell the complete story since they are not paid attendance figures.
Terry Hanson, who joined the Diplomats last October as publicity director and will probably be promoted into the front office following the season, worked at Rochester in 1976.
The Lancers are one of the struggling teams, in the league. "Things were pretty bad up there," Hanson remembered. "We would have a promotion for a game and advertise it in the paper. Somebody would call about it. 'What time is the game?' he would ask. I always answered, 'What time can you get here,"