SAN DIEGO — In the wake of the Tacoma Stars' collapse, Major Soccer League owners held a clandestine meeting in Baltimore on Monday and decided to continue with six teams, a decision that falls short of guaranteeing another season.
When the Stars folded two weeks ago, the MSL dwindled to six members, but one, the St. Louis Storm, has been dormant since the regular season concluded in early April. Owner Milan Mandaric has been attempting to peddle the franchise to local buyers, but so far only two under-funded groups have emerged.
When asked if the Storm's situation had been solidified, Sockers' owner Oscar Ancira would say only, "we're still wondering."
Mandaric could not be reached for comment, but a St. Louis source said nothing has happened in the negotiations for three weeks.
The decision to go ahead with six teams appears to be an attempt to convince Buffalo millionaire Bob Rich of the MSL's stability. Rich has been mulling an expansion team for Buffalo for a year but has not committed. Ancira said a decision by Rich is expected this week.
Regardless, Ancira appeared upbeat about the league's chances.
"We're going to play with six teams," he said. "And this was not an easy decision to make. Last year, everyone was saying there's absolutely no way we'll play with less than eight teams. Then it was seven, then it went down to six."
Meanwhile, there is a movement afoot to resurrect the Tacoma Stars. Boyd Lundstrom, a Tacoma realtor, has stepped forward and offered to fully fund the Stars, provided that league dues (believed to be in the $100,000 range) and the commissioner's salary (reported to be $180,000) are lowered, according to Suzanne Koenig, the Stars' director of operations.
Commissioner Earl Foreman could not be reched for comment.
It is unlikely the league will acquiesce to Lundstrom. When the Stars folded, Ancira made it clear that without the Tacoma owners' constant efforts to heighten frugality, the remaining franchises finally could increase their budget and implement marketing efforts.
Ancira said a "courtesy" invitation to Monday's meetings was issued to Lundstrom, but Lundstrom did not show. Koenig said Lundstrom did not make the trip because his voice would have carried no weight in the discussion.