After getting word yesterday that Washington had been awarded one of the teams in a new professional outdoor soccer league, D.C. World Cup official John Koskinen said: "It's wonderful news. This is now the only city in the United States with the World Cup, Olympic soccer in '96 and now a pro team, so we really have become the soccer capital of this country."
Washington's latest soccer conquest was made official with the announcement that RFK Stadium had been selected as a site for a team in Major League Soccer, which is scheduled to begin play next April.
Other sites selected for the 12-team league were Los Angeles, San Jose, Long Island, northern New Jersey, Foxboro, Mass., and Columbus, Ohio. Five more teams will be named by August.
The creation of MLS by U.S. soccer officials was one of the requirements set by the sport's world governing body, the Federation Internationale de Football Association, when it awarded the 1994 World Cup to the United States. MLS's chairman is Alan Rothenberg, head of the U.S. World Cup organizing committee.
"Washington's selection, in many ways, is a no-brainer," said Rothenberg. "RFK Stadium has as wonderful an atmosphere as you can get for soccer in this country and it has a tremendous track record as far as drawing crowds for soccer."
Washington was selected despite the fact that it received only about 2,000 season-ticket deposits, well short of the original goal of 10,000 set by MLS officials.
All franchises initially will be owned by MLS, which hopes for an operating budget of $100 million. But Rothenberg said the league could go on a budget "as low as $50 million."
Potential investors apparently are monitoring how the World Cup will affect the level of general fan interest in the sport before backing the league.