The Washington Diplomats are close to hiring Les Shannon, a successful coach in England and Greece, as their coach for 1978. The Washignton Post has learned.

Three other men are still in contention for the job, according to North American Soccer League sources. But Shannon has talked with the Dips by phone several times and has the inside track for the appointment, the sources say.

Team president Steve Danzansky and general manager John Carbray, both at league meetings in New York, could not be reached for comment.

The Dips finished last season with Alan Spavin as coach after Dennis Viollet was fired June 29. The club was 6-9 when Viollet left and finished 10-16, well out of contention for a playoff berth.

Although Carbray has insisted since July that Spavin has "an excellent chance" of retaining the job. Spavin has said all along that he does not consider himself a serious contender.

Carbray and Danzansky initially said they wanted a coach hired by Sept. 1, then later by Sept. 30. They also said they would look first within the league. The other three contenders are believed to be from the NASL.

Shannon started coaching professionally at Blackpool in 1966, moved to Bury in 1969 and went to Greece in 1971 to coach Paok. After four years with Paok, he moved to Hercules in 1975 and to Olumpiacos in 1976. He is now in England during the offseason.