With FIFA, international soccer's governing body, watching nervously from its Zurich headquarters, the most important election in the U.S. Soccer Federation's 77-year history will take place Sunday morning in Orlando, Fla.
The winner of the presidential election will have control of the 1994 World Cup, which will be held in the United States for the first time.
The candidates are incumbent Werner Fricker, 54, who has held the position since 1984 and reportedly is the reason for FIFA's concern; USSF treasurer Paul Stiehl, 42, a University of Maryland graduate and Beltsville resident who helped secure the 1994 bid; and sports attorney Alan Rothenberg, 51, the former president of the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers and the soccer commissioner at the 1984 Summer Olympics.
Fricker and Stiehl are longtime federation members, but they have been at odds since Fricker fired Stiehl as president of World Cup USA 1994 in February 1989.
Rothenberg, who owned the Los Angeles Aztecs of the defunct North American Soccer League, recently was encouraged by FIFA to run for the job based on his handling of the soccer portion of the 1984 Olympics; soccer competition in those Games drew 1.4 million fans.
The election involves three groups -- the youth, amateur and professional branches of the federation -- each carrying the same weight, regardless of the number of votes. Stiehl seems to have a majority of the youth votes and Fricker the amateur support, so the professional ranks may be the deciding factor.
The only registered pro clubs in the United States are members of the eight-team Major Soccer League, which recently changed its name from the Major Indoor Soccer League. The question is whether the teams will vote separately or the league will submit one ballot.