Gordon Bradley, who coached the original Washington Diplomats, says it is unlikely that he will be able to organize a professional soccer team to fill the void in Washington in time for the 1982 season. He says it is more realistic to try to have a team ready by 1983.
Given the time constraints, Bradley has concluded it would be difficult to raise the $5 million he says he needs, sign players and organize a team, and win North American Soccer League approval for a Washington franchise in time for the 1982 season, which begins early next spring.
"A team next year would be nice," Bradley said. "But you have to face facts and be realistic."
So far, Bradley has formed the nucleus of an organization that will attempt to restore professional soccer here, and within the next two weeks will begin an ambitious drive in the area's soccer and business communities to raise $5 million to support the effort.
Over the weekend, Bradley said, he met with about 50 commissioners and assistant commissioners of area youth soccer leagues. He said he plans to tap that network to solicit contributions from families and friends of the 60,000 to 100,000 participants.
At an organizational meeting of about 40 soccer supporters just over a month ago, a six-person board of directors of Washington Soccer Inc. was elected; the organization is in the process of filing for tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service. If it gains that status, contributions would be deductible. The operation is designed as a nonprofit, community-owned club.
"We have created an organization which is larger than professional soccer," said Julian Tepper, a lawyer and native Washingtonian who is one of the newly elected board members. "We have created a charitable and educational organization, the purpose of which will be to enhance and promote the enjoyment of soccer in the Washington area."
According to Tepper and Bradley, players on the team would be expected to conduct clinics and speak at gatherings of soccer enthusiasts. During the offseason, the club would play exhibition games throughout the area, with the proceeds going to the youth leagues.
Bradley said the organization has had 600,000 $10 certificates printed for sale to persons who wish to become "supporting members."
For $100, he said, donors can become charter members with the right to vote for candidates for the board of directors at annual meetings. Bradley said he also plans to solicit $1,000 contributions from business organizations. Those that contribute $1,000 would receive two season tickets and advertising in game programs, Bradley said.
Contributors also will be eligible for drawings for prizes, including a 1982-model car and lifetime passes to Washington soccer games.
Bradley said no announcement of how much money has been raised will be made until Nov. 21, but periodic announcements can be expected thereafter. Any surplus funds will go toward youth soccer programs, he said.
"We're not out to make money. We're out to have a good time and have a lot of fun and give a lot of excitement to the soccer public," he said.