The New York investment firm that is close to buying D.C. United's operating rights also is making a bid to purchase a financially troubled English Premier League soccer club.

Manhattan-based EM Warburg, Pincus and Co. has offered about $44 million to buy a 68 percent controlling share in Everton, a 121-year-old club from Liverpool that lost an estimated $30 million last year. The company also plans to pay between $25 million and $30 million to invest in Major League Soccer and gain control of four-year-old United.

The United sale will not be completed until the end of the month, but a team source yesterday said that Warburg, Pincus--a major global private equity investment firm--is heading the effort. Other sources, however, cautioned that there are other parties involved. Warburg, Pincus's involvement was first reported yesterday by the Washington Times.

United President and General Manager Kevin Payne declined to comment.

Meanwhile, United defender Diego Sonora, who may leave the club after its first-round playoff series against Miami, said yesterday that his South American-based agent, Ruben Morales, will meet with MLS officials next week to discuss a new contract.

Sonora's current pact expires next weekend, and despite United's participation in the MLS playoffs, he likely will leave to pursue a contract with an Argentine or Mexican club.

Sonora also said that MLS wants him to continue to play for United, if it advances in the playoffs, and take a 40 percent pay cut to stay in the league next year. Ivan Gazidis, the MLS executive vice president who oversees player contracts, said league policy forbids him from commenting on negotiations.

"I'm not going to play for free," Sonora said. "I want to stay here, but not for no money. That isn't right."

Sonora is expected to start Sunday in Game 2 of United's best-of-three, first-round series against Miami at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and would be available if Game 3 Wednesday at RFK Stadium is necessary. After that, however, he likely would depart.

The situation has distracted United, which was hoping to bond for the postseason after a disappointing stretch at the end of the regular season.

"We all care about each other," Coach Thomas Rongen said. "It's a close-knit family. Someone is potentially leaving and not at the most opportune time. On the other hand, I think the team also knows how to deal with that, and when it's time to play, we'll play."

Rongen reiterated that as long as Sonora is available, he will be considered for the starting lineup. "We'll play our best 11 until I hear anything different regarding Diego," he said. "If something happens, we'll make the appropriate adjustments."

Sonora, 30, began his playing career with legendary Argentine club Boca Juniors, but if he returns to his native country, it would be with a less prestigious team. It may be difficult for him to join a club in Mexico because the signing period there is currently closed.

Meanwhile, defender Carlos Llamosa said his sprained knee is improving steadily and he may be available to play next weekend in the conference finals, if United advances. Llamosa was injured in the regular season finale on Oct. 9 against New England and was expected to miss two to four weeks. Team officials are being cautious about Llamosa's return, fearing further damage to a ligament.

Soccer Notes: The U.S. Soccer Federation will announce next week that the men's national team will play a friendly match next month in Morocco--its first game in Africa since a 3-1 loss to the Moroccans seven years ago in Casablanca. Several United players in the national team pool probably will not be available because of the MLS playoffs.