Q&A with the SA Editors: Feb. 27, 1998

Armando Mascorro

Visalia, Calif.

Watching the USA lose to Mexico in Los Angeles was very hard, but it was even harder watching how the U.S. was treated while they were there. I watched a water balloon sail pass Eric Wynalda's head and saw trash and other objects thrown at the the U.S. team as they left the field. I understand that there was a huge Mexican contingent there, but I don't ever remember this kind of treatment when they played in Mexico or any of the other qualifiers or U.S. Cup games. Does the USSF have ANY say in where the tournament is to be held? It's hard enough, I believe, when the U.S. is playing in the U.S. and 90 percent of the fans are rooting for the other team, but this display was almost, well, Costa Rican.

Duncan Irving: The Gold Cup is controlled by CONCACAF, the regional organizing body, of which U.S. Soccer is a member nation. The tournament logistics, marketing, TV rights and organizing are conducted by a sports marketing group called InterForever. U.S. Soccer has the right to veto games in which there is a conflict of interest (namely last year's Coliseum Cup, which staged its opening doubleheader behind closed doors owing to U.S. Cup '97), but they leave the organizing to CONCACAF and InterForever. Historically, they have wisely given the Gold Cup a wide berth. I don't blame them, either. You saw the final on TV played in front of a full stadium. What you didn't see was that one of the end-zones is under construction. Fans mingled among piles of aluminum benches and unfinished steps. Thankfully, nothing went wrong, although the word "lawsuit" sprang readily to mind. The crowd at this particular game was almost exclusively Mexican -- local TV was blacked out to boost the attendance and it worked. The treatment the U.S. received at the hands of the fans was very poor. Had U.S. Soccer been in charge of marketing the game, they would have been more pro-active in targeting anglo-fans and this would have been reflected slightly in the composition of the crowd. However, U.S. Soccer has formed a liaison to stage and promote matches involving Mexico's national team. Mexico will play a series of matches in the United States, to be promoted and marketed by U.S. Soccer. Labeled "Vamos a Mundial con Mexico" ("Go to the World Cup with Mexico"), the games are scheduled to be played in late March and early April. In the aftermath of the Gold Cup, Steve Sampson let slip that a rematch with Mexico would be played April 8. Some U.S. Soccer officials, though, do not want to play Mexico again in the Los Angeles Coliseum, and alternative sites have been discussed. However, one federation source said it is "obligated" to stage a match in the Coliseum that involves Mexico -- part of the fallout of the Coliseum Cup after threat of a complaint drafted by lawyers representing the L.A. Coliseum Commission. The word was the U.S. wanted to play Mexico at the Rose Bowl in May in a game televised by ABC -- they owe the network a game. This will likely be the May 30 match against Scotland at RFK. My own feeling is the U.S.-Mexico game will go ahead at the L.A. Coliseum April 8. U.S. Soccer's Emilio Pozzi will likely be in charge of promoting the game and I predict two things: A slightly more balanced crowd, and far fewer fans than at the Gold Cup.

Russell Osman

Bristol, England

I would like to know the best way of trying to get a coaching position with a pro team in the USA. I am an ex-England International player, with over 700 league games played, and for the past 4 years I have been a manager/head-coach of English professional teams. I am a fully qualified FA Coach, last year coaching the England Under 18 side, and would like to get involved in the professional game in the States. Any help you could supply would be greatly appreciated.

Pete Bailey: There are several things you can do. One is to read the Marketplace section in SA each week -- it often contains advertisements for coaching positions. Another option would be to check out our 1998 Camp Directory (the March 16 issue). Many British coaches get their first contacts in the U.S. by working summer camps. You can also try contacting the USISL -- visit their site at www.usisl.com or call them at (813) 963-3909.

Shane Kilmon

Waltham, Mass.

One of your on-line articles about the U.S. U-20 team mentioned a name I have not heard before: John Thorrington, playing for Manchester United. Can you shed some more light on this player? Is he following in the footsteps of Jovan Kirovski?

Paul Kennedy: John Thorrington is, like Jovan Kirovski, a product of Southern California who joined Manchester United's youth program last year. Unlike Kirovski, he holds a British passport through his parents, so if he makes the first team he will be able to play in the Premier League.

Tom Hill

Boxborough, Mass.

The Diaz Arce move to New England was largely due to D.C. United's cap problems. However, it seems some people are forgeting that United traded a low salary (Rammel) to Colorado for a high salary (Wegerle), so at least part of this is their own doing. Nonetheless, there's something wrong with a system that counts performance bonuses as part of the cap. For example, many unknown players signed for the minimum, and if they did well, they got bonuses. In D.C.'s case, winning two years running had given many "role" players justification for raises, which, under the system, raised the overall salary level to cause cap problems. Seems to me that it's a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation. Any plans to fix this system, or does the league purposely want to force parity in this manner?

Ridge Mahoney: The league is just as interested in financial prudence as well as parity, although it does admit certain players have only a portion of their salary counting against the salary cap, and thus is paid out of the league's coffers. But this internal inflation happens to all successful teams in pro sports. A player gets too expensive for a team to stay under the salary cap, so they trade him or he goes somewhere else as a free agent, and the team signs a less expensive player to take his place. The more pressing problem in the Wegerle case is that a portion of his salary counted against Colorado's cap last year, and all of it applies to DC's cap this year. But if DC really wanted to keep Diaz Arce, it would have found a way, perhaps by parting with players it wanted to keep. Harkes came rather close to joining New England. Bruce Arena didn't feel Diaz Arce was indispensable. And, by cooperating with the league, it frees up a foreigner slot and puts itself in line to get another player it really wants, like Andrew Williams. Another factor is that Thomas Rongen would rather not have had Alexi Lalas on his team, and the league enticed the MetroStars to take him, for a juicy "future consideration." The reason most bonuses count against the cap is to prevent teams from paying most of a salary in bonuses. Suppose Zenga had a lowball salary of $50,000, but was paid $100,000 for each game he played. That turns the whole structure into a farce, or a much bigger farce than it is. The system does have flaws, but if a championship team unloads a bunch of starters, it a) antagonizes the fans, and b) runs the risk of plummeting in the standings. Look at the Florida Marlins. Nice PR move -- and that's a team that only needed to dump a couple of players to fit under the luxury tax structure. Wayne Huizenga just didn't want to spend the money. There are great advantages and terrible drawbacks to having the league own all the players, but the league has been inching toward more of a laissez-faire, give-and-take relationship with team execs. Actually, I think the system is working better now than it did at the beginning, since teams have a better feel for budgeting and have much more input on player signings than during the awkward start-up stages. (Thomas Rongen wanted to clear out his roster; he did. He wanted to get a few Dutch players, and he did. Brian Quinn has jettisoned nearly half of the 20 Clash players who were on his roster at the end of the 1997 season.) But it will not continue indefinitely; through the sheer workload of bagging international players, Sunil Gulati is simply making too many enemies. Yet there are far worse scenarios than to have a professor of economics with international soccer experience riding herd on the most volatile expense -- player salaries -- of any pro sports operation. I believe that at least one MLS team would have folded or moved if owners were allowed to go whole-hog from day one. Most of them bought into the league partially because the single-entity system prevents the type of spiralling cost escalation other leagues have endured only because of vast revenue streams generated by television, sponsorships, and luxury boxes. Hint: Exorbitant pay-per-view deals are the next revenue stream to be tapped.

Doug Garrison

Rochester, N.Y.

Why is it that the "18 yard line" is the unit of measure for the International game of soccer/football?

Mike Woitalla: The 18-yard line refers to the penalty area border that runs parallel to the goal line. (Germans refer to the 16-meter area.) One does not, however, encounter the phrase "18-yard line" in the rule book. The "18-yard line" sounds like an informal term to me.

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