F.C. Washington, the Northern Virginia-based member of the new American Soccer League, gets its first taste of league play today against the Maryland Bays in a 4 p.m. exhibition at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County.

The game will be the second exhibition for both teams, who each played the Canadian Pan American Games team in July. F.C. Washington beat Canada, 2-1, at George Mason on July 26, while the Bays lost, 2-0, at UMBC on July 29.

"This gives both Maryland and F.C. Washington an opportunity to find what strengths we both have," F.C. Washington President Gordon Bradley said. "When you start a new league, you don't know what rung of the ladder you're on. The league is only as good as its weakest link, so we would like to have all of the teams at the same level."

F.C. Washington Coach John Kerr should just make the match in time: He was spending yesterday in England watching his son, John Kerr Jr., become the first American to play in the English First Division, for the Portsmouth F.C. in its opener against Oxford United.

Meanwhile, said midfielder Sonny Askew, F.C. Washington doesn't know much about Maryland, which features Baltimore Blast forward Rob Ryerson and former New York Cosmo Daryl Gee of Columbia, Md. "We're just worrying about ourselves at this point," he said.

Besides players, F.C. Washington is also looking for the right name. Its ongoing name-the-team contest has drawn entries such as the Spirit, Renegades, Presidents, Congressmen, Senators, Whips, Tartans, Monuments, Rangers, Tigers, Magic, Power and the current name. Bradley said the contest has drawn over 300 entries and that the winning entry will be announced Sept. 30.