Seattle Misses First Mls Cut -- But Bid Isn't Dead

Major League Soccer today announced seven of the 12 cities that will receive teams to begin play in spring of 1995 in the first-division league.

Seattle was not among them, but according to MLS Chairman Alan Rothenberg, the city is one of 11 that the MLS will "be working with" in the coming months to determine whether it receives one of the final five spots.

The areas selected were: Boston; Columbus, Ohio; Los Angeles; New York, northern New Jersey; San Jose, Calif.; and Washington, D.C.

Reflecting the scarcity of soccer-ready venues, the list of 22 bidding cities shows that most of them plan to use stadiums where college or NFL teams are primary tenants.

MLS officials prefer that teams play in 20,000- to 30,000-seat stadiums with grass fields, but few of the proposed interim facilities meet that criteria.

Of the 22 bidding cities, 10 want to drape off sections of large stadiums used by pro football teams to make the stadiums seem smaller.

Stadiums on college campuses accompany at least seven of the bids, including Phoenix (Sun Devil Stadium) and Columbus, Ohio (Ohio Stadium).

Of the cities proposing to use interim facilities, only two cities, New York and Columbus, have firm plans to build permanent stadiums specifically for soccer.

The list points to the compromises MLS has had to make in getting a 12-team league started in spring 1995, but suggests that Seattle has a competitive bid despite the lack of an available stadium.

Local MLS organizers are in preliminary talks with University of Washington officials about using Husky Stadium on an interim basis until a permanent soccer stadium can be built. They propose to reduce the seating capacity to 30,000, apparently by covering seats in the upper decks.

The only other option identified by MLS officials is Memorial Stadium, which at 11,928 has the smallest seating capacity of any of the venues proposed by the bidding cities.

The MLS season runs from April to early October, giving the university a chance to take in rent during months Husky Stadium is least used. Spring sports end in June and Husky football practice begins in August.

"There is available space in the summer for university or non-university users," said Mike Alderson, business director for the UW athletic department. "But there are political and philosophical issues of pro sports using Husky Stadium."

NFL teams have been permitted to practice at the stadium in the past, as well as events such as the Goodwill Games, Alderson said.

Beyond that, MLS officials would also have to satisfy the university that the games would not dramatically bother surrounding neighborhoods.