W. Springfield, Mass.
I am upset that Brad Friedel is getting ZERO playing time at Liverpool. Why did Liverpool spend a million pounds just to scare David James into playing well? Friedel deserves a fair chance to show his ability in Europe and Liverpool is jerking him around. Why?
Ridge Mahoney: Only Liverpool manager Roy Evans can explain why Friedel isn't playing, Chris, but David James has played very well the past month, and with Liverpool winning -- aside from its elimination from the third round in the FA Cup -- he's not likely to make a change. I agree with you that to shell out money and twist arms for a work permit, then not use the player, doesn't make sense, but Liverpool's task is to win, and if it can do so without Brad Friedel, that's his hard luck. Unfortunately, he's not in a position to wait patiently. Steve Sampson started Friedel Jan. 24 against Sweden, and Friedel will also most likely play the first two matches of the Gold Cup. This absence from England will virtually wreck his chances of having his work permit renewed, so I expect he's bound for yet another club, such as Rangers or perhaps Benfica. There may also be a contingency clause that if Friedel's work permit isn't renewed, Liverpool has to pay only a portion of the original transfer fee, with the balance due only if he's transferred again to another club.
Are the rumors of David Regis (starting defender for Karlsruhe) becoming eligible to play for the U.S. national team true? According to a friend in Germany, Kicker magazine recently ran an article that said Regis wanted to play for the U.S. team, and since he is uncapped and married to an American, this means he can get a U.S. passport, which means he can play for the U.S. Are these rumors true?
Pete Bailey: I spoke to Steve Sampson about this issue at the Gold Cup press conference yesterday, and he said that things were "progressing" and that there was probably a 50-50 chance that Regis could be available for the U.S. in April. Sampson said that he would have to have Regis in camp by early May in order to determine how and if he will fit into the team's plans. It appears to be a "wait-and-see" situation at this point.
What is the financial situation of the A-League like? It seems that the average attendence is somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,500 fans per game. However that average is skewed by higher crowds in Rochester, Montreal, Minnestota, Long Island and Seattle. What is the size of a typical A-League operating budget? What do the books look like for the teams that are struggling to draw 1,000 a game? Do these cities have a future in the A-League? I think that a solid Division II structure is important for the future of soccer in the U.S.
Paul Kennedy: It is virtually impossible for teams to survive at 1,000 a game. After all, how much of that is even paid? Player budgets are low, but teams still have rent, staff, and travel costs. Teams are moving toward finding ways to partner with other operations (Minor-league baseball or ice hockey) to share expenses. Several teams this year were sold to groups with minor-league baseball affiliations or, in the case of Vancouver, CFL football. Baseball can come close to surviving on 1,000 a game in the minor leagues because they have costs covered by the majors. A-League budgets are all over the map, in the $200-500,000 range. Below, some D3 or Premier League teams get by on budgets of $50-80,000.
Juan C. Romero
Silver Spring, MD
I saw the U.S.-Jamaica game in Washington and I noticed that some Jamaican players still play for the league in Jamaica. Do you know if any MLS teams have been interested in signing any of them?
Ridge Mahoney: I raised this point several months ago, but despite the hordes of Jamaicans that descended upon RFK, MLS has been slow to sign players, although Wolde Harris has been with MLS since last year. I'd think exciting young players like Ricardo Gardener and skillful attackers like Theodore Whitmore would be perfect for MLS, but most of the Jamaican players are basically in full-time training with the national team -- aside from those playing in England, of course -- and so are less enticing. But if the league doesn't sign at least a couple of them before or after the World Cup, I can only assume no coach wants them. Or, the league is keeping it quiet so the prices don't go up. These players are good value, and would draw lots of fans in cities like Miami, New York, and Los Angeles (big Caribbean population).
Do you think the Women's World Cup organizing commitee's decision not to give the final game to RFK Stadium was a mistake? At RFK, it would have been plausible to expect a fairly large attendance, and it's the best place to see a soccer game. I believe we'll have a very disappointing day at the Rose Bowl. At WC 94, there were games prior to the final there and that kept the interest up.
Dean Caparaz: RFK certainly has a history of success in hosting big, well-attended matches -- from the Olympics to U.S. games to D.C. United -- the Rose Bowl has also hosted big, well-attended matches -- the 1984 Olympic final and the 1994 World Cup final. The Rose Bowl will also host MLS Cup '98. RFK could have hosted some games in the Women's World Cup, and was offered to host some games. But RFK did not accept the offer. This quote from a story I wrote in the Dec. 8, 1997, issue of Soccer America may help: "We didn't pull out," RFK assistant manager Mark McCullers clarified. "We bid on the final. We put what we thought what was a comprehensive bid to host the final in the nation's capital, where we thought it should be, and we were not selected. The quarterfinal and first-round package was never considered, really." I believe the Rose Bowl, despite not hosting any WWC '99 games prior to the final and third-place game combination, will draw well, because I also believe the U.S. will be in the final or, at least, in the third-place match. However, if the U.S. is neither in the final nor the third-place game, attendance should drop dramatically. While most of the games will be played at downsized stadiums, there are no plans to downsize the Rose Bowl, which could be a mistake. If RFK was the final host, I believe it would also suffer greatly without the U.S. there.
West Simsbury, Conn.
My friends and I have been disputing the regulation sizes of soccer fields in the United States (MLS) versus the european fields and the fields being used for the World Cup. What are these field dimensions?
Mike Woitalla: In the World Cup, all the fields must be the same size: length (116 yards) x width (75 yards). Otherwise, the following minimum-maximum figures apply: length (100 to 130 yards) x width (50 to 100 yards).