Obituary: Pioneer Earl Foreman did it all in soccer

Pioneering sports attorney Earl Foreman, who died Monday at the age of 92, had ownership interests in teams in the NFL, NBA, ABA, NHL, but perhaps his biggest influence came in soccer.

The Washington attorney owned the Whips, who played in the 1967 NPSL and 1968 NASL, later founded the Major Indoor Soccer League and played a pivotal role in changing the course of American soccer with the election of Alan Rothenberg as U.S. Soccer president in 1990.

Foreman, who suffered from heart disease, died in an ambulance en route to a hospital from his home in Chevy Chase, Md.

He held a minority interest in the NBA's Baltimore Bullets and NFL's Philadelphia Eagles in the 1960s and later owned the Washington Caps and Virginia Squires of the ABA, starting the career of Julius Erving. His brother-in-law and client, Ed Snider, owned the NHL Flyers and Philadelphia Spectrum.

Foreman started the Whips, who were represented by Scotland's Aberdeen in the United Soccer Association in 1967 and finished second to the Los Angeles Wolves, losing, 6-5, in overtime in the final.

The first indoor game Foreman saw was a game between the touring Moscow Red Army team and NASL (outdoor) champion Philadelphia Atoms that drew 11,790 fans at the Spectrum in 1974. He attended the game with friend Ed Tepper  and four years later they started the MISL with six teams. The MISL rivaled the NASL for interest and survived after the NASL folded after the 1984 season.

Philadelphia Fever-Cincinnati Kids (MISL game, December 1978):



Foreman stepped down as MISL commissioner in 1985 -- he was rumored to the candidate for commissioner of the United States Football League of New Jersey Generals owner Donald Trump -- only to return in 1989.

In 1990, the MISL was the only pro soccer league in the United States and therefore its eight teams controlled the pro vote in U.S. Soccer -- one-third of the votes. That was enough to tip the election of U.S. Soccer president in favor of Rothenberg against incumbent Werner Fricker and federation treasurer Paul Stiehl as the eight MISL teams voted as a bloc for Rothenberg, who won with 59 percent of the overall vote but only 39 percent of the youth and amateur divisions.

Foreman initially instructed MISL teams to support Fricker but changed his mind and had them vote as a bloc for Rothenberg, FIFA's candidate, after the owners in San Diego and Dallas switched their support. Foreman and Rothenberg went all the way back to the 1967 USA final. Rothenberg was attorney for Canadian sports mogul Jack Kent Cooke and served as general manager of Cooke's Wolves.

There had been tension between U.S. Soccer and the MISL, the only domestic home for many years for such national team stars as Rick Davis, Hugo Perez and Kevin Crow, and after Rothenberg's election, U.S. Soccer agreed to a two-game exhibition series between the national team and MISL all-stars in Kansas City and St. Louis.

Foreman was the first chairman of the committee Rothenberg paneled to investigate the launch of an outdoor league. He stayed on as MISL commissioner until the league folded in 1992.

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