The commissioner of the North American Soccer League said yesterday that the new Washington-based Team America plans to open training camp Tuesday in Tampa, Fla., but that only 15 to 20 of the 39 NASL players invited to try out are likely to report.
However, Howard Samuels, NASL's chief operating officer, expects more players to report later. He noted 11 of the 39 players have commitments to teams in the Major Indoor Soccer League, whose season is in progress.
According to a Washington Post survey earlier this week, only 12 of 39 NASL players had officially accepted the invitation. T. Beauclerc Rogers IV, the general manager of Team America, had said Tuesday's opening of training camp, already put off a week, might have to be postponed another week.
But Samuels said yesterday the Team America concept has won the support of the players unions, and that many players had been holding back from trying out until all problems between the unions and the leagues had been resolved.
Ed Garvey, executive director of the NFL Players Association, which also oversees the soccer unions, confirmed that all but a few of the issues between the unions and the leagues had been resolved.
"We had a very positive meeting," he said.
As envisioned by the United States Soccer Federation (this country's governing body of the sport) and the North American Soccer League, Team America would cull the best American players from NASL and MISL to field the U.S. national team for World Cup and possibly Olympic competition.
The team would compete as a regular NASL club. In the offseason, it would play international matches overseas and in the United States to train for World Cup and Olympic competition, if the latter is opened to professionals. Last week, the team announced it has signed an eight-year lease with RFK Stadium and plans to play 15 home games there this year, plus several exhibition matches.
Paul Rosenberg, assistant to the general secretary of the USSF, acknowledged that "not all the American players want to play on Team America. You would think that every one of them would have jumped on the bandwagon."
Rosenberg also said he believes most players invited to try out for Team America eventually will accept the invitation. "Some of them just don't want to move, but it will all work out," he said.
Said Samuels, "I don't think there is any question that they want to play. We don't need all the stars. We want the young players who are on their way up."
Many players who have not accepted the invitation to try out said they were awaiting the outcome of negotiations between the unions and the leagues. Several said they were concerned about their position on their current team should they try out for Team America and fail, although the league has said they will get their old jobs back if they are cut.
Players who have said they will attend the opening of camp are goalkeeper Arnie Mausser (Tampa Bay); defenders Dan Canter, Colin Fowles and Bruce Savage (Fort Lauderdale) and Glenn Myernick (Tampa Bay); midfielders Pedro DeBrito and Perry Van Der Beck (Tampa Bay) and Allan Merick (Toronto), and forwards Sonny Askew (Toronto), Tony Crescitelli (Golden Bay), Robert Mesbach (Fort Lauderdale) and Hayden Knight (Montreal).
The Cosmos, who had the most players invited (nine), said none of them has made a decision.
Seattle forward Mark Peterson and Vancouver defender Mark Nickeas are injured and are unable to play.