Tom Presthus will start in goal for D.C. United Sunday in Game 2 of Major League Soccer's Eastern Conference finals against Columbus. He also is planning to be the starter next year and probably will be there the following season.

But in a unique effort to keep his long-term playing options open, the Minnesota native said yesterday that he is hoping to acquire a European work permit through his upcoming marriage. Such a permit, which is coveted by U.S. soccer players seeking overseas employment, would make it significantly easier for Presthus to sign with a European club.

"Teams are more willing to take a look at you when they don't have to worry about all of the other issues," Presthus said after practice at United Park. "This would make the transition much easier. I love the U.S. and I don't want to leave unless the situation works out well for myself, but that's a ways down the line."

Presthus, who at 24 is considered one of MLS's top young goalkeepers, is under contract for two more seasons. Although European clubs primarily are interested in U.S. players between the ages of 18 and 24, goalkeepers commonly mature later in their careers and have market value well into their thirties.

The major obstacle for American players in recent years has not been finding a European club interested in their services, but acquiring a European work permit.

U.S. national team goalie Brad Friedel, now playing for Liverpool in England's Premier League, has had ongoing problems as a foreigner trying to gain and maintain a permit. Conversely, former Colorado Rapids goalie Marcus Hahnemann signed with Watford in England's First Division during the summer--a deal expedited because Hahnemann, an American, has German family roots and had received a German passport and work permit.

Presthus said he hopes to get a work permit after his wedding in December. His fiancee is eligible for a German passport because her mother was born and raised in Germany. Thus, as a spouse of a European citizen, Presthus said he would qualify for a work permit.

Another factor, Presthus said, is MLS's single-entity structure. All player contracts are owned by the league, not the individual teams. When a deal expires, a player cannot bargain with other MLS clubs, like athletes in most other U.S. professional sports. As a free agent, that player must either re-sign with MLS or pursue a contract in a foreign league.

"It would give me a little leverage, a little bargaining power," Presthus said. "You always want to keep your options open. This is the best way for me to do it right now."

United Notes: The New York investment firm that sources have said is close to purchasing United's operating rights suddenly broke off talks this week to buy a majority stake in Everton of the English Premier League. EM Warburg Pincus and Co. had considered offering about $38 million for 68 percent control of the financially strapped club.

However, it is not believed that the company's interest in United has changed. United officials have not publicly acknowledged Warburg Pincus's interest in their team, but in a general statement, club president and GM Kevin Payne said negotiations with a potential buyer "are progressing. It's all part of a long process. It takes time."

A club source said he expects the deal to be completed within 10 days and a joint announcement by the team and the league to come in the week leading to the MLS championship game on Nov. 21. . . .

United central defender Carlos Llamosa remains questionable for Sunday's game at Columbus with a sprained knee ligament. If Llamosa cannot play, Carey Talley would start again. The only other personnel move is at the defensive midfield position, where Richie Williams will return after serving a one-game suspension for receiving a red card.