Foreign players vying for a work permit in England can be denied by a single vote or a single game.
In the former case, Tottenham Hotspur's appeal on behalf of U.S. midfielder Bobby Convey resulted in a split 3-3 vote by the six-man panel of executives, coaches and former players who decide such things. In this case, a tie isn't a good result.
Last month, Derby County lost an appeal after a work permit for Josh Wolffwas denied because he didn't meet the requirement that he had played in 75 percent of the USA's competitive matches during the previous two years. Another parameter is a national team must be in the top 70 of the ever-fluid FIFA rankings.
As it turned out, his lone, brief appearance in the World Cup left him a match short of qualifying for a work permit. Derby County and MLS agreed to a transfer fee of 500,000 pounds ($942,500). In many such close calls an appeal is successful, but not this time.
"It's an interesting process," he laughs ruefully. "To this day, it's hard for me to explain it. There aren't any real requirements except that one, two years at 75 percent. We honestly missed it by one game, which is disappointing.
"Once you don't get in that way, you have to go through an appeals process, and it seems very hit or miss. There's six guys and they change from week to week so it's hard to really know what they pull on, as far as being the swaying points that's going to get their votes. It didn't happen, so that's how it goes."
Wolff, who trained at Blackburn several years ago, is out of contract at the end of the season and at age 29, knows that if a move overseas doesn't happen soon it never will.
"I say it to our younger guys, any time you can get over there and train, it's a great opportunity to go over there and see what it's like," he says. "That's what fuels my interest. You want to be part of it, it's exciting to have soccer be the dominant sport, whether it's England, Germany, Holland, wherever."
Wolff says MLS had the opportunity to extend his contract or negotiate a new one last April and declined. "I want to finish this season up strong, first and foremost, get into the playoffs and have a good run," he says. "After that, we'll see what happens."
DWAYNE'S WORLD. In the case of Houston and Canadian midfielder Dwayne DeRosario, he does meet the caps requirement, and Canada is in the top 70, but with two more years (until 2008) on his MLS contract, the fee demanded by MLS might be higher than what teams are willing to pay.
He is 28 and although this season may not have been quite as scintillating as the past few, that remarkable goal against Chelsea in the All-Star Game is just one of his 2006 highlights. England is just one possibility.
With just a few months left on Wolff's contract, MLS was willing sell him at a very low price considering how highly it values U.S. internationals. It has balked at selling or loaning Colorado midfielder Pablo Mastroeni to Italian Serie B club Brescia, although the team is reportedly willing to pay $750,000. Mastroeni's contract expires next season.
Clint Dempsey is talking as if he's already gone but how much higher will teams go than the reported $2 million bid for him by West Ham or the $1.5 million put up by Charlton?