Washington is the probable location for Team America, said Howard Samuels, chief executive of the North American Soccer League, yesterday after meeting with representatives of Anheuser-Busch Inc., a potential sponsor of the proposed team of top U.S. players.
Samuels also said:
The team cannot break even at the gate in Washington because the salaries of the players, who would be on loan from the league's other 12 franchises, would make it the most expensive NASL team to operate. Team America was approved last month by NASL owners as a three-stage developmental program for junior, pre-Olympic and World Cup competition.
A sponsorship package must be completed within the next month to start Team America for the 1983 season, which begins April 27. Samuels said he is looking at "four or five" sponsors at the corporate level and from among league owners, who would risk $200,000 to $400,000 each. There are no firm commitments.
Samuels said he told representatives of Anheuser-Busch that NASL owners favor Washington as the base for Team America. "There was nothing from Budweiser, not one iota, that their involvement is dependent upon the team being in St. Louis," Samuels said.
The brewery representatives were en route home yesterday and could not be reached for comment.
A source close to the brewery and professional soccer termed Anheuser-Busch's participation as a sponsor as "very unlikely."
In Dallas, Lamar Hunt, a founder of the American Football League and a minority owner of the NASL's Tampa Bay Rowdies, said sponsorship by NASL owners is the logical step to take. He said sponsorship by one corporation might tend to make the public perceive it as "XYZ Corporation's team instead of America's team."
Of the Team America concept, Hunt said, "I like it very much. The sport made a mistake 15 years ago on not being more forceful on the American end of the game. Americans don't accept sports in which we don't excel . . . A Team America concept would help us get better."
Meanwhile, Bernie Rodin, owner of the Baltimore Blast of the Major Indoor Soccer League, said he had seriously considered asking for a NASL franchise for 1984 "until the Team America thing came up." Rodin said his plan was to split the home schedule between Washington and Baltimore.
Rodin said he thought a rivalry between franchises in the two cities would be good, but was uncertain whether Baltimore could support a full home schedule. Rodin said marketing studies show the Blast draws 30 percent of its attendance from the Washington area. NASL teams lost $25 million last year, but Rodin said outdoor soccer's only problem "is owners who run it more as an avocation."