As the North American Soccer League reels through another tumultuous season filled with franchises losing money, there has been some speculation about the NASL returning to Washington in 1983.
Gordon Bradley, the former Diplomats coach and the man who would most likely be involved in such a move, said yesterday there is "a great deal of interest here in seeing something like that happen. But unless some wealthy investors turn up, there's no way to do it."
The two teams in the most serious trouble are Jacksonville and Edmonton. Both are drawing fewer than10,000 fans per game and their owners have made it clear they have no intention of operating from those cities next season.
Last fall, after Washington lost its second franchise in as many seasons, Bradley launched a fund-raising drive aimed at raising enough money from small donations to purchase a franchise in 1983. The drive has raised $32,000, considerably short of the several million dollars it would take to launch or purchase a franchise.
"More than 2,000 people made contributions, which shows you the kind of interest there is in soccer here," Bradley said. "I've had talks with some potential investors, but when they hear the kind of money you're talking about to start with, it scares them . . . "
The NASL had 24 teams in 1980. It is now operating with 14 and is expected to drop to 10, or fewer, next season, with franchises floundering in all but a few cities. Washington, in 1980, was one city that displayed potential for soccer, the Madison Square Garden Diplomats averaging 19,205 fans a game, including one crowd of 53,000.
But MSG President David (Sonny) Werblin, disgusted with the way the league was being run, folded the club after that season. A second Diplomats franchise, on the run from debtors in Detroit, landed here last season, then folded despite respectable attendance because the owners, Jimmy and Duncan Hill, were several million dollars in debt.
One league source said yesterday the NASL would love to return to Washington. "It's one of maybe five cities where we've had real success," he said. "But it's still the same problem--finding a legitimate investor."