PASADENA, Calif. - Seattle's bid for a Major League Soccer team gained a significant boost with a decision by the University of Washington to begin negotiations with the league for interim use of Husky Stadium.
MLS officials have expressed a desire to place one of its 12 teams in Seattle. The city was passed over when the first seven teams were chosen last month because there was no place to play its 14 home games.
The use of Husky Stadium would give the MLS and local soccer organizers time to pursue the construction of a permanent soccer-specific facility, possibly in Kent.
Michael Campbell, president of the Sports and Events Council of Seattle-King County, hailed Friday's decision by the UW Board of Regents to begin negotiations as a "giant step" toward bringing one of the five remaining teams to Seattle for the inaugural 1995 season.
Details about renting Husky Stadium have not been worked out, but MLS officials have addressed UW concerns by agreeing to pay for all security and traffic costs, Campbell said.
"It's going to get done," Campbell said. "Everyone wants to make this happen."
The MLS opportunity comes at a time when Huskies have been penalized financially for NCAA rules violations in the football program. The university was stripped of $939,000 in television revenues last year and will likely have its income limited in 1995, when the Huskies can only play four times on television.
The board of regents, however, opened the door for professional soccer because its members want to help the first-division league gain a foothold in the community, said Dave Cohn, a member of the board.
"It was amazing to me how popular the world's game has been on TV, and yet there have been 25 percent more viewers here than across the country," Cohn said.
The MLS season begins in April and runs through the summer, so the league would have to fit its games around the schedules of other university events, including Husky football practice. But Campbell said he has spoken with UW officials and coaches, including football's Jim Lambright, and believes it can be done comfortably.
The university wants a two-year limit on use of the stadium, Cohn said. By then, the board would need to see progress made toward finding a permanent home for the MLS team.
The MLS has encouraged Seattle officials to pursue Husky Stadium as an interim site but is eager to find a permanent site. One possibility is an 18-acre site near Kent. Bill Sage, chief operating officer for the league, reiterated Thursday that the focus must be on finding a home for a Seattle team.
Seattle is competing with 10 cities - Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Sacramento, Tampa and Tulsa - for the final five berths. The MLS had planned in June to name the remaining cities by Aug. 1, but put off the announcement until mid-August because of stadium problems in several cities.
The seven areas already given teams are Boston, Columbus (Ohio), Los Angeles, New Jersey, New York (Long Island), San Jose, and Washington D.C. San Jose and Columbus will use college stadiums, the latter on an interim basis.