Robert Lifton, the prime investor in Team America, said yesterday he has signed an eight-year lease for Robert F. Kennedy Stadium and has an option for another North American Soccer League franchise here when Team America is dissolved after the 1986 World Cup.
That franchise would be called the Washington Americans, if there is still a NASL then. The league lost a reported $25 million last season and now has 12 teams, compared to 24 at the start of the 1981 season. Team America is seen as the catalyst to have American players as soccer heroes for Americans, thus increasing interest in the sport.
Although no coach or schedule was announced during a press conference here yesterday, sources said Team America's first home game likely will be May 8 against the Cosmos and that Rinus Michels, former coach of the Dutch national team and the Los Angeles Aztecs of the NASL, is the leading candidate to become coach here, if he wants the job.
Michels is coaching in Cologne, West Germany. The Team America coach, who will be chosen by the executive committee of the U.S. Soccer Federation, also will be given the responsibility of selecting players for the team. Officials at yesterday's press conference said it was likely a coach could be named early next week.
Meanwhile, Manfred Schellscheidt, 42, the U.S. Olympic coach and under-23 national junior coach, will handle the team on an interim basis. Schellscheidt and his assistant, Angus McAlpin, the under-19 national junior coach, will take about 50 candidates for the team to training camp in Tampa, Fla., beginning Feb. 1. Schellscheidt said last night that he considers himself the coach and would accept the job if offered it permanently.
Team America will serve as the national training team for the 1984 Olympics and the 1986 World Cup, for which the USSF has bid to make the United States the host country. Brazil and Mexico also are bidding for the World Cup. It will be the fifth pro soccer franchise in Washington and the third NASL franchise here in four years.
The new team will play 15 home games at RFK Stadium, plus a few exhibitions there against other national teams. It also will play international exhibition games elsewhere in the U.S.
Among those also being considered as coach are Gordon Bradley, former coach of the NASL Washington Diplomats, and Lincoln Phillips, who led the Washington Darts to consecutive American Soccer League championships in the late 1960s as a player-coach, then coached Howard University to victory in the 1971 and 1974 NCAA championship games.
Bradley, if he is not named coach, will probably work with Team America in some other capacity.
The coach will select as many as three Americans from the rosters of the other 11 NASL teams, but the players don't have to come. Howard Samuels, the league's president, said the players will be required to make 48 appearances in the Washington area to promote the league and the team.
"We've done a bad job of marketing," Samuels said of the league.
This first Team America will be made up mostly of NASL players, although players from the American Soccer League, Major Indoor Soccer League and amateur players will attend the three-week training camp.
Any player who has become a naturalized American citizen also is eligible, except for Cosmos superstar Giorgio Chinaglia, who played for Italy in a previous World Cup.
The team will be known as Washington Team America and will open its NASL season on April 22--probably against the league champion Cosmos in Giants Stadium.