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MSL Still Searching for a 6th : Soccer: Deadline is Monday, but there is no indication whether shrinking league will fold.


SAN DIEGO — The five remaining Major Soccer League owners will huddle via telephone Monday and decide whether to dissolve it.

The five have concluded that they will not continue unless the league can field at least six teams.

With Monday looming as a deadline, a sixth team is nowhere in sight.

But there still is a chance the league will continue. The decision will hinge on whether all five owners find acceptable a plan to augment the schedule by playing one or more international teams in games that would count in the standings. The international teams would not play any "home" games.

Oscar Ancira, the Sockers' managing general partner, spent the past week putting together a plan for a team of Mexican all-stars to play every MSL team up to six times during the regular season. According to two sources, there is a chance of another international side participating on a similar basis.

"But that's a longshot," one source said.

Neither source would divulge the nationality of the "longshot."

At least one MSL owner has expressed doubts about such a plan. Wichita's Bill Oliver said he doesn't think Wings' fans would pay to see a Mexican all-star team six times during the season.

But international play could be the 14-year-old league's only hope.

A week ago there was talk that Dallas owner Donald Carter, who also owns the Mavericks of the National Basketball Assn., could convince other NBA owners to field expansion teams. The carrot he dangled was a plan to move back the schedule to a spring-summer format. That would allow some NBA owners who also own their arenas to fill summertime dates.

While talk continues, so far there has been no action.

At any rate, it appears the schedule--which this past season ran from late October to early April--will be significantly altered if owners decide to continue. Ancira previously stated he would like to begin play earlier in October, and Foreman on Friday echoed that thought, saying the season would begin and end earlier than in the past.

That's not to say owners have ruled out summer play. Talk continues of playing an abbreviated winter schedule, then coming back for a second indoor season in the summer. The initial plan, a source said, was to play 30 games during each season.

Toward that end, discussions with the players' union concerning number of games and the abolition of the salary cap have commenced, according to a published report.

Another possibility for a sixth team is to revive the St. Louis Storm, but that franchise appears doomed. Foreman and Cleveland Crunch owner George Hoffman spent the past week trying to shore up two groups interested in purchasing the team, but both Foreman and Hoffman intimated they made no progress.

The team still is owned by founder Milan Mandaric, but Mandaric has made it clear he does not intend to keep it. Negotiations will continue up to Monday noon.

"It is not over yet," said a source in St. Louis. "But there are all kinds of problems. You wake up in the morning, and everything looks very good. But by 2 p.m. there's a big problem. We just don't have anybody strong like Milan, Oscar, or Donald Carter, and when you're depending on five or six people something always comes up. . . . But if this thing comes together, it can be a very solid franchise."

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