Doug Logan, Major League Soccer's commissioner since its inception in 1996, will be removed in the near future, sources said last night.
MLS officials have made inquiries to other U.S. professional leagues about a replacement, sources said. Among the candidates not currently in pro sports are Women's World Cup President and CEO Marla Messing and former U.S. Soccer Federation president Alan Rothenberg.
Reached at league headquarters in New York, Logan said he would not comment, but added, "I'm here at my desk and I'm doing my job. That's all I'm going to say."
Logan, 56, has run the 12-team league and tried to help create a niche in the competitive American sports market by appealing to the growing number of soccer players and fans in the country, as well as an increasing immigrant population.
Prior to accepting the job of MLS commissioner, he was a sports and entertainment executive.
In the last six months, several key investors and some team officials have become uneasy with Logan leadership and less positive about MLS's future. They have expressed concern over stagnant television ratings and attendance figures and say the league could be better marketed, a source close to the situation said.
MLS's front office plays a more prominent role than its counterparts in most other pro leagues because of its single-entity structure.
Each team operator owns a financial stake in the league, not just its individual team. Also, player acquisitions and contracts are controlled by the league.
Logan's contract, which pays him an estimated $250,000 annually, runs through the 2000 season.
A high-ranking league official said: "I am very concerned about where the league is headed and I'm concerned about the leadership in the league. . . . There have been discussions about who would be appropriate to step in if, in fact, something happens."
Earlier this year, deputy commissioner Sunil Gulati was fired by Logan for re-signing a veteran player without the consent of Stuart Subotnick, who runs the New York/New Jersey franchise on behalf of billionaire John Kluge. Some team officials say Gulati's experience in international circles has been missed. Gulati's return is possible, a source said.
The other prominent MLS investors are Lamar Hunt, owner of the Kansas City Chiefs; Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots; and Denver businessman Philip Anschutz. Hunt and Kraft each operate two MLS teams and Anschutz runs three.
The league has been unable to find investors for the Dallas and Tampa Bay franchises.
D.C. United is operated by Washington Soccer L.P. -- an investment group that includes international financier George Soros and several other investors with D.C., New York and British ties. The group has been seeking to sell the franchise's operating rights for an estimated $25 million.
Kevin Payne, United's president and general manager, said, "I don't know anything about" Logan's departure.
MLS is averaging 15,174 spectators per game, a slight increase over last year's final figure of 14,312. The league's television ratings on ESPN and ESPN2 remain low, although there has been an increase of viewers for games shown on Spanish-language Univision.
The league has been losing between $15 million and $20 million a year, but currently has enough financing through the 2003 season.