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Rothenberg Leaves MLS Operations to New Commissioner Logan : Soccer: League also moves forward with player, coach signings.

November 22, 1995|GRAHAME L. JONES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Doug Logan is a 52-year-old sports marketing and event management consultant from Glenridge, N.J., whose clients have included NBA and NHL teams.

He is also the owner of the San Diego Wildcards of the Continental Basketball Assn.

And, although he is a lifelong sports fan, his knowledge of soccer, he freely acknowledges, is rudimentary, at best.

That, however, was no deterrent to Major League Soccer officials, who Tuesday named Logan the league's first commissioner.

They also included in his five-year deal the titles of MLS president and chief executive officer, tossing him two of the hats previously worn by Alan Rothenberg.

The announcement, one of several at a New York news conference attended by FIFA President Joao Havelange of Brazil, signaled the end of Rothenberg's tenure as the man in charge of the league's day-to-day operations.

Rothenberg will retain his title as MLS chairman and what he described as his substantial financial investment in the league. Logan, however, will effectively be running the operation.

Havelange's only noteworthy contribution to the occasion--other than the comic relief provided by the consistent mistranslation of his remarks--was the announcement that he will attend the league's first game, on April 6 in San Jose.

There were, however, several more significant developments. For instance:

--The league announced that Univision, the dominant Spanish-language network in the United States and fifth-largest network overall, will televise 26 MLS games live. These will be in addition to those already scheduled to be carried by ABC, ESPN and ESPN2.

--The number of players either under contract or who have reached an informal agreement with the league is 88, up from the 57 announced a month ago.

"We'll eventually get something like 250 and let the coaches, of course, pick the final teams to get the number to 180," MLS Deputy Commissioner Sunil Gulati said. "We are in fairly serious negotiation with 12 players who played in the World Cup last summer, including two who played on July 17 in Pasadena [in the championship game between Brazil and Italy].

"We are looking primarily south--to Mexico, Central America and South America and to other parts of the world--Africa and Asia--that are maybe better [suited to MLS needs] stylistically and economically [than Europe]."

The names of the additional 31 players were not revealed.

--All 10 coaches will be in place by Dec. 15. Three teams, among them the Los Angeles Galaxy, will name their coaches next week.

--There will be what MLS terms "an evaluation combine" or camp at UC Irvine Jan. 5-15, to be attended by about 200 potential MLS players. All will undergo physicals and be evaluated by team coaches and general managers before the draft, expected to take place in early February.

--The league will hold preseason training in March in Southern California, Florida, or both. Gulati said the decision had not been made whether to base all 10 teams in one location or divide them into two groups for exhibition games.

--MLS headquarters will not move to New York as has been speculated but will remain in Los Angeles at least until next summer.

Rothenberg said he had no misgivings about giving up day-to-day control of the league.

The intention in founding MLS "was not to start a league so that I could have a job," he said. "It was to start a league because we thought the time was right. Initially, I never intended to be running the league once it got up and running.

"There were some conversations with the investors about that, but it was my decision, ultimately, that I and the league and my law firm and my clients and my family would be better served if I did what I am doing, which is to serve as chairman."

Logan, who grew up in Cuba and speaks fluent Spanish, said he does not expect his unfamiliarity with the sport to be a major drawback.

"The fact that I may not have an overwhelming or even adequate amount of knowledge of soccer doesn't say that I'm not a strong fan of the sport," he said. "I have observed it as a fan and as a sports executive as an international, almost universal idiom that transcends borders, transcends languages, transcends cultures in just about every spot in the world, except here, on the first division level.

"To finally bring that level of soccer . . . to the United States is a fascinating challenge for someone in my chosen profession. The opportunity to make a little bit of history is almost a challenge that you can't refuse."

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