The American Professional Soccer League, which this spring will become the first national outdoor league since 1984, will field 10 to 12 teams, a league official said.
The APSL consisted of 22 teams last year from the American and Western soccer leagues. Because of financial constraints, not all were able to take the next step and play interleague, regular season games for the first time this season.
"Our concern from the middle of last season was that we needed to begin to consolidate and create stronger entities," said John Koskinen, ASL vice chairman and co-owner of the Columbia-based Maryland Bays.
"We made a commitment to play for three years and we played for three years. Now was the time to form a truly national league. Some teams felt they couldn't take that step at this point."
The sport hasn't had a national outdoor league since the North American Soccer League folded after the 1984 season. Some APSL teams eventually will compete in the U.S. Soccer Federation's pro league, which is being set up in anticipation of the United States' staging of the 1994 World Cup.
The APSL was formed in 1989 for business and marketing purposes, but the only interleague play was an unofficial national championship between the champions of the American and Western leagues. The Bays, who defeated the San Francisco Bay Blackhawks in the title game last season, will be the only Washington area team.
The Washington Diplomats, plagued by poor attendance and mounting financial problems, were expelled after last season for failing to "adhere to league requirements."
Koskinen merged his team, the Fairfax-based Washington Stars, with the Bays, who will play three or four home games at RFK Stadium and the remainder at the renovated Cedar Lane Park in Howard County.
The Orlando and Fort Lauderdale franchises also merged and will play in South Florida. Miami, Tampa, Albany and Penn-Jersey (Trenton, N.J.) will continue to field teams. New Jersey, an original member, and Raleigh-Durham, N.C., which was expected to play this season, remain members but won't compete. Boston was the only franchise to fold.
The WSL will announce its surviving teams next week and schedules will be released Feb. 1. Koskinen also said the APSL is working on an arrangement whereby Soviet and South American or Central American clubs would play games in this country that would count in the standings.