PAUL KENNEDY... A long-term proposition

At first blush, MLS owners appear to have adopted a policy of retrenchment.

What else would you do if you lost $250 million in five years?

Rosters have been reduced to 18 "senior" players. As of two weeks before the start of the season, there were no significant foreign signings.

The accent has almost entirely been on youth, the talk on teen stars such as DaMarcus Beasley and Bobby Convey and the next generation of MLS schoolboys, Santino Quaranta, Eddie Johnson and Devin Barclay.

Profitability remains a long-term proposition. A distant memory are the heady days of late 1996 and early 1997 when there was talk that MLS would achieve profitability in less than four years.

Are MLS owners committed for the long run?

It hurts that most owners are so anonymous. How can we gauge their enthusiasm when they don't share it?

Here are five 2001 developments essential for MLS's long-term health:

1. Donovan signing. MLS will ultimately sink or swim on the basis of how the public views its product. MLS must get Donovan home. His return will be a sign for young players that MLS - not Europe - is the place to begin a career.

2. Stadium work. The day they begin digging at the Los Angeles Galaxy complex in Carson is the day Philip Anschutz is in too deep to get out.

3. Expansion. There's been so much talk about a second New York team, few really believe it any more. Unveil a name and logo, hire a GM and head coach and get to work on a stadium.

4. TV. MLS ratings are pitiful, but the networks need sports programming. A new TV contract is not the problem. Building awareness in the national media is a major challenge.

5. World Cup 2002. MLS can't do anything about this, but the United States has to qualify for next year's finals. Bruce, the pressure's on you.

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