Howard Samuels, chief executive officer of the North American Soccer League, said yesterday the United States Soccer Federation has given "the go-ahead for Team America pending changes and chances for the directors to see the final contract."
Team America most likely will be based in Washington as the U.S. national soccer team for World Cup, Olympic and junior competition. Samuels said yesterday a press conference has tentatively been set for Jan. 18 or 19 in New York. Samuels said that until all details in Washington are worked out, including a lease on RFK Stadium, no press conference will be held in Washington.
Samuels said there "is a small outside chance, less than 5 percent," that the team would not be based in Washington. "There's one other prospective city," Samuels said, declining to name the city. "I want the team to be in Washington, and I think it will be. But we've still got to negotiate the stadium contract."
Samuels said that the contracts between NASL, in which Team America would play at least the next two seasons, and investor Robert Lifton of New York were submitted to the USSF's 20-member board of directors at a meeting Saturday in Orlando, Fla.
Under terms of a joint agreement between NASL and USSF, the federation has the right to approve the final contracts and to name the coach of the team. It would play as a NASL franchise and also play international competition at various sites.
Bob Sigholtz, the manager of RFK Stadium, and Lifton could not be reached for comment. Gene Edwards, the president of USSF, and Earl Foreman, commissioner of the Major Indoor Soccer League and a member of the USSF executive committee, declined comment.
"I'm not discouraged," said Samuels. "There is more communication with the directors necessary, and there are some things to deal with the investor on. There's a huge cast of characters involved--the union, players, USSF, our owners, the investor and some special interest groups that are not that enthusiastic. I'm not critical of anybody at all. We were too ambitious to think we could get the contract put together in one day."
Issues that concerned Foreman, according to Samuels, was how players from that league could go to the team's tryout camp in Tampa, Fla., in the middle of the MISL season and scheduling of Team America exhibition games in MISL cities.
The NASL, whose teams lost a reported $25 million last season, sees the Team America concept as the best vehicle for building interest in soccer in this country. "Let there be no question I'm doing this in the interest of the NASL . . . but I'd like to think we're doing it in the interest of all segments of American soccer," Samuels said.