Hootie and the Blowfish, whose album "Looking for Lucky" will be released next week, has long been associated with sports fandom. Frontman Darius Rucker, as we all know, is such a baby that the Dolphins make him cry. But can the same be said about drummer Jim "Soni" Sonefeld -- a former NCAA Division I midfielder who grew up in Northern Virginia -- and his favorite soccer team, D.C. United?

I wouldn't say I have shed tears. If I have, they were tears of joy.

Why are you an MLS fan?

I still have pain stemming from the demise of the NASL, the North American Soccer League, because that was my dream, that was to be my future. I went to college in South Carolina with this dream of playing pro soccer. That league collapsed, and it wasn't until MLS and D.C. United that I had a spark of another dream, but the mullet had passed years earlier. My bad haircut had already gone away, and music was my next adventure.

You need a bad haircut to play soccer?

It certainly helps. I don't think it's a requirement. I've seen a few sporty ones, but, boy, there's some nasty ones out there.

Any favorite soccer haircuts?

The mullet in general. [Marco] Etcheverry had a pretty special 'fro mullet. The bigger the better.

Have you liked D.C. United since the beginning?

Yeah, it was destiny actually. We were in Hong Kong, and I see a handful of mulleted, Adidas flip flop-wearing athletes coming out of the hotel we were staying in, and I'm like, 'Wait a second, this is a soccer team.' They looked at me and they were like, 'You're Hootie!' and I looked at them and I was like, 'You're D.C. United!' This was 1996 or 1997. And I was like, 'Sweeeeeet.' Every little bit of soccer I can get, I'm juiced, and they were Americans abroad looking for a little Americana. Needless to say, we partied a little bit.

Do you play bongos in the stands?

No, I love the surroundings, but I've got enough damn drums in my life. The last thing I need to do on my off day is go listen to someone else drumming. Maybe that's my future, as a samba bandleader in the end zone at RFK.

If D.C. United offered you a chance to play?

I think my band would understand. I wouldn't demand number 10 or anything like that, I would happily take one of these goofy new soccer numbers like 32 or 99, and I'd be willing to be a role player, maybe come in off the bench. No earlier than the 85th minute, mind you. I've got to look good, I can't be getting all tired.

And if you could bring one D.C. United player in as a guest singer, who would it be?

Someone who's willing to give me their jersey. I've got to be wearing a shirt, wearing the colors. I'll have to say Freddy Adu, just because he is Freddy Adu. And I know I can talk a 16-year-old out of his jersey.

-- Dan Steinberg

SONEFELD