Team America owner Robert Lifton said yesterday he felt confident the team would remain in Washington next year and compete either in the North American Soccer League or play exhibition games against NASL and international teams.
"I don't believe this will be the last game in Washington," said Lifton, referring to Team America's 1983 finale against Fort Lauderdale tonight at 8 at RFK Stadium (WWDC-1260). "Whether we play in the NASL or play exhibition games around the country, we'd like to keep Washington as a base."
Lifton also denied recent reports that he plans to move the team to St. Louis. "There is no way I'd move this team," he said. "If we compete next year, then we stay in Washington. The only question is whether (NASL President Howard) Samuels and those who want us to stay around can deliver."
Lifton told his players last week that they would be returned to their original clubs after the regular season unless alternate financing could be found to keep Team America solvent during the winter. Lifton said he hoped to gain financial support from the NASL and the United States Soccer Federation, and is trying to set up a meeting between himself and officials from those organizations in Washington late next week.
Samuels is scheduled to meet with Team America's players here Wednesday and advise them of their current status. A strong supporter of the Team America concept, Samuels also expressed optimism yesterday about the team's future.
"I feel confident we can put something together," said Samuels. "This team needs the cooperation of the players, Lifton, the owners, and the USSF, and I think we've finally got it. I am confident we can work something out.
"The goal of this team was to prepare a team for the (1986) World Cup, and I find it impossible to believe that can be done without the team staying together," he said.
Team America Coach Alkis Panagoulias spoke last week at the USSF's annual meeting in St. Louis and asked for increased support from the financially strapped federation. Panagoulias said he was pleased with the encouragement he got and is scheduled to go to New York next week to prepare an international tour for October in conjunction with the federation.
"The USSF was hesitant at first, but it fully supports Team America now," Panagoulias said. "We'll still be here next year, either as Team America or the national team, and we'll have most of our games and practices in Washington."
Panagoulias also said he felt Team America's inaugural season was a success, despite its 10-19 record and 79 points, the lowest in the league. Team America can finish no higher than 11th in the 12-team league.
"Team America is a success in that it showed these American boys that they can field a good national team and that they can play with the rest of the world," he said.