SAN DIEGO — The Major Indoor Soccer League suffered two blows when it was announced at the league owners' meetings here Wednesday that the Minnesota Striker and St. Louis Steamer franchises had folded.
Meanwhile, managing general partner Ron Fowler's bid for an outright purchase of the Sockers--a team on shaky ground as late as a week ago--received unanimous support in a vote of league owners.
News of Minnesota's demise was received from Minneapolis Wednesday, when Tim Robbie, the club's executive vice president, announced that the team had been unable to attract new investors for next season.
St. Louis, which has not been in business since the end of the season, was automatically terminated by MISL Commissioner Bill Kentling, who cited league bylaws as the reason for the team's dismissal.
"Since they were not operating for 10 days after the end of the season, they were automatically terminated," Kentling said. "I had made my decision last week, but since I hadn't had a chance to announce it to our league directors, I didn't announce it to anyone else, either."
The league is left with nine franchises, all of which must post a $400,000 letter of credit to the league by July 1.
"We are down to nine now, but I'm optimistic that we could have 10 or 11 franchises still for next season," Kentling said.
A group of three St. Louis investors--Milan Mandoric, a former owner of the North American Soccer League's San Jose Earthquakes; Dennis P. Long, the former chief operating officer of Anheuser-Busch Inc., and Steve Frank, a St. Louis lawyer--are making a bid to purchase a new St. Louis franchise.
Also, Kentling said, an informal offer was made to the league's owners by a new group in Minnesota Wednesday.
"As far as St. Louis is concerned, we will talk with them over the next couple of days to determine whether or not the new group can get a new franchise," Kentling said. "The Minnesota offer is just informal so far. It could be where we would bring the new group in for a presentation or it could be nothing."
The Sockers--who were nearly reduced to nothing before Fowler filed a bid with a federal bankruptcy court Friday to purchase the team for $700,000--are now closer to remaining alive for another season as a result of Wednesday's vote.
"The league owners have decided to accept Ron Fowler as a sole owner of the San Diego franchise on two conditions," Kentling said. "One is that the bankruptcy judge accepts his bid on June 29 and the other is that they post their letter of credit on July 1."
Said Socker President Ron Cady, "While it seems it is negative news that the league lost Minnesota and St. Louis, I think it's positive that there are investor groups in both cities who want to take over.
"We have to keep looking at this situation positively. It's most important that this league go forward with strong franchises. Whether it be 9, 10 or 11, we have to have strong franchises to survive."
The owners' meetings will continue at the Kona Kai hotel on Shelter Island through Saturday.
The Sockers ended their three-day Phone-a-Thon Wednesday night having sold 842 season tickets for next season. On Friday, when it was announced that Ron Fowler would attempt the buy the team, the Sockers said they had hoped to reach the 4,000 mark in season-ticket sales by Wednesday night.