If the United States reaches the point where it has a chance to host the 1986 World Cup, one of the chief negotiators in working a deal to bring the games here would be former secretary of state Henry A. Kissinger.
"One of the most important things for soccer in this country would be to have the World Cup played in this country and in Canada," Kissinger said in an interview in his K Street office last week. "I think playing the World Cup here would do for soccer what the 1958 Colts-Giants overtime game did for pro football. It would be the big breakthrough.
For the last two years Kissinger has seved as chairman of the board of the North American Soccer League. In the past the job has been, for the most part, a titular one with Kissinger making occasional appearances on behalf of the league and consulting sporadically with Commissioner Phil Woosnam. One of those appearances will be Sunday in the Soccer Bowl game in RFK Stadium.
Kissinger said last week that in the future he hopes to take a more active role in league affairs. That role would include helping the league negotiate with FIFA, the ruling body of international soccer that has been extremely distressed by the NASL varying from international rules; helping negotiate bringing the World Cup here and, perhaps, purchasing a franchise of his own.
"Right now the time to do these things isn't there," Kissinger said. "Once I have finished my second volume (of his autobiography) I think there will be more time and I would like to become more involved with soccer."
Woosnam would like to see the World Cup played here in 1986 if Colombia, which has been chosen to host the 24-team tournament, cannot go through with its commitment because of the political situation there. Kissinger said he does not think that is unrealistic.
"There would be problems, certainly," he said. "I think it is impGAortant that LCwe not be perceived as pushing Colombia to lose the tournament. But if they could not be the host I would propose that we immediately form a committee of senior Americans, like the Olympic committee, to work to try to bring the World Cup here.
"There are things that would have to be done. We have stadiums with artificial turf and the World Cup would not stand for that. And many of the stadiums do not have fields that are wide enough. But I think it could be done and it would be a major breakthrough for soccer here."
One of the major stumbling blocks to bringing the World Cup here are FIFA's objections to NASL rules, specifically the existence of the 35-yard line, which creates more offense, and the shootout, which is used to break ties.
"I like the 35-yard line," Kissinger said. "I was in Europe for the European Cup and most of the games were dull. The game over there has become defensive and boring. Teams score one goal and then drop back. I think our rule is better.
"I have mixed feelings about the shootout. I am basically old fashioned about soccer, although I understand the reason for it (the shootout) being invented here.
"I would hope we can negotiate all this with FIFA without it ever coming to a confrontation.
As for the league, Kissinger said he sees unstable franchises and the inability of the league to break through on national television as the two biggest problems in the NASL now faces.
"Our problem is that a lot of people in this country still don't understand the game," Kissinger said. "In some cities, like New York, they understand it, but nationally a lot of people don't. Maybe we need shows where the commentators show certain plays and explain the game in general. I'm not sure.
"The moving of franchises (there will be at least two in the NASL next season) is bad for the league's image. We need stable franchises that we can work to build around."