The Major Indoor Soccer League lost two more franchises and likely a third Friday, leaving the league on the verge of collapse four days after the United States was awarded the 1994 World Cup.
The MISL, the nation's only remaining soccer league of stature, was reduced to six teams with the demise of the Tacoma Stars and the Chicago Sting and the expected termination of the San Diego Sockers. Teams in St. Louis and Minnesota folded last month.MISL Commissioner Bill Kentling said in a statement the latest developments represented a "major setback." The MISL owners spoke by conference call Friday and Kentling said they will resume talks Monday on the league's future.
The Sockers were awaiting the outcome of action in a California bankruptcy court, but San Diego businessman Ron Fowler withdrew his offer to buy the team, all but dooming the club.
"They're more or less dead right now," a league spokesman said.
The Sockers had said they would be interested in staying in the MISL only if the league fielded at least eight teams.
The remaining franchises are: Baltimore Blast, Cleveland Force, Dallas Sidekicks, Kansas City Comets, Los Angeles Lazers and Wichita Wings.
They managed to meet Friday's deadline when teams were bound to post a $400,000 letter of credit to stay in the league for the 1988-89 season.
"We have been unable to obtain the proper financing," Sting owner Lee Stern said. "I cannot continue to sustain the ongoing losses by myself and I cannot in all good consciousness ask others to participate in a situation that has become so risky."
Said Lowry Wyatt, Tacoma's board chairman: "The grassroots support for this team was tremendous. But the business marketplace was not able to support this size of an operation."
The turmoil comes at a time of renewed hope for soccer in the United States. FIFA, world soccer's governing body, on the Fourth of July awarded America the 1994 World Cup. It will mark the first time soccer's premier event will be held outside Europe and Latin America.
The MISL has completed 10 seasons. Should the league fold, the only soccer leagues left in the country would be the low-budget American Soccer League and Western Soccer Alliance.
The U.S. Soccer Federation said Thursday it hopes to form three tiers of outdoor soccer leagues but the format would not be in place until the early 1990s. The matter is to be voted on July 28-30 in Philadelphia.
Clive Toye, a longtime soccer promoter and president of the North American Soccer League when it folded in 1985, said no connection should be drawn between the demise of the MISL and the arrival of the World Cup.
"The MISL has about as much to do with the World Cup as Arena Football has to do with the Super Bowl," he said.
The Sting played in the NASL indoor and outdoor leagues from 1975-84 and won outdoor championships in 1981 and 1984. The team plans to continue participating in local clinics and camps.
"The new league may provide us with a re-entry into outdoor soccer as a part of the USSF's World Cup efforts," Stern said.
The Stars enjoyed good support, averaging 10,400 spectators a game last season. Last month Wyatt said the club would fold if the promise of $500,000 was not forthcoming. The public responded by buying 500 season tickets worth about $120,000.
Team president John Best said the club lost $9 million in five years, including more than $1 million last season.