Washington "has a very good chance" of being the city in which the North American Soccer League bases Team America, a soon-to-be-formed team composed of top U.S. players, NASL Commissioner Phil Woosnam said yesterday.
The NASL ended two days of meetings in San Jose by voting to establish -- with the support and cooperation of the U.S. Soccer Federation and the Canadian Soccer Association -- Team America and Team Canada. The teams, made up of citizens from the U.S. and Canada, could play in the NASL as soon as next season and no later than 1984.
Speaking by phone from San Jose, Woosnam said Washington is a national site with tremendous soccer enthusiasm. There are more than 100,000 youngsters playing soccer in the Maryland and Virginia area."
Washington already has lost two NASL teams in the last three years, but Woosnam is hoping to attract enough sponsors to bring the team here. The other possibility, he said, is St. Louis, where it is hoped that financial support might come from the Anheuser-Busch Corp.
"Forming these two teams would immeasurably improve the chances of both the United States and Canada claiming a spot in the 1986 World Cup competition," Howard Samuels, president of the NASL, said in a statement.
Despite competing in a relatively weak qualifying group (CONCACAF), the United States has not qualified for the final round of the World Cup since 1950. One reason, say critics, is the short amount of time U.S. team members have to play together, compared to counterparts in other countries. In the past, some NASL teams have been reluctant to release players to compete internationally.
The target date to complete plans for the teams is Dec. 15, according to Woosnam, who says the next step is to secure financing. The NASL season is scheduled to begin April 27.
"The cost of bringing Team America here will be the same as having another NASL team," said Gordon Bradley, one of the coaches of the old Washington Dipomats. "You have stadium rental, travel expenses and all the other costs."
Stocking the teams would be accomplished by acquiring a maximum of four players from the 12 existing NASL teams -- down from 24 in 1980. The players' contracts would be owned by their present teams.
The teams would compete in the NASL, but would stay together to play an international schedule in an effort to develop strong units for World Cup play. "By expanding their schedule, this plan could make Canada and the United States ultimate powers in soccer," Woosnam said.