- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 24, 2001

It could only happen in America, where soccer is still viewed as a curiosity.

This week the Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) run by billionaire Phil Anschutz acquired its fifth Major League Soccer team when it took over the New York/New Jersey MetroStars. Anschutz now has control of five clubs in a 12-team league. Besides the MetroStars, he owns the operating rights to D.C. United, the Los Angeles Galaxy, the Chicago Fire and the Colorado Rapids.

Most people are apt to roll their eyes when they hear that one man owns five teams in such a small league. That's understandable because conflicts of interest seem almost inevitable.

Although there are numerous things to object to in this deal, it is ultimately good for soccer. For all fans who remember the North American Soccer League (NASL) folding in 1984 and the 12-year vacuum that followed, a man like Anschutz is welcome anytime.

The AEG investment and a good chunk of MLS is in good hands. Former United general manager Kevin Payne, who will oversee AEG Soccer, is a true soccer man. Payne has the ear of U.S. team coach Bruce Arena and understands the culture of soccer more than most of the "suits" out there.

Anschutz's teams no doubt will be monitored closely for any signs of collusion that might give the five-team conglomerate any advantage over the other seven teams in the league.

Ironically, United is now tied to the MetroStars, and little love has been lost between the teams in the past. At one time, the rivalry was the hottest in the league.

It's disappointing that there aren't more investors out there with deep pockets like Anschutz and Lamar Hunt, who operates two MLS teams, willing to support the game. MLS is not perfect, but what else is there to offer the nation's growing soccer community? Anschutz's recent investment gives American professional soccer some added security and the hope that MLS will be in existence for a few more years.

On another note, there are reports that AEG is negotiating to buy the U.S. English-language rights to the 2002 and 2006 World Cups.

Welcome call-up Two D.C. United players who may well play a role in the future of American soccer have been called to the U.S. national team training camp.

Midfielders Bobby Convey and Mark Lisi were invited this week by coach Bruce Arena to join the American team as it prepares for an upcoming game against World Cup co-host South Korea on the island of JeJu on Dec. 9. Whether the two players will make the final roster remains to be determined, but as Arena looks to the future, Convey and Lisi are two players with the potential to fill the big shoes of Claudio Reyna and Tab Ramos.

Both players have the ability to set up plays and make those crucial final passes. Convey, though injury-prone, has speed and vision; Lisi is capable of threading that vital pass through a crowded defense. Soccer America reports that Lisi is set for a training stint with Portuguese powerhouse Benfica later next month.

World Cup Australia earned a 1-0 victory over Uruguay on Tuesday in the first game of the playoffs to claim the final berth at the 2002 World Cup. Kevin Muscat scored on a late penalty kick before 90,000 at Melbourne Cricket Ground. The second game of the series is at Montevideo tomorrow. Uruguay needs a 2-0 win to claim the berth, while Australia just needs a tie. Uruguay has not qualified since 1990. Australia, which boasts Leeds strikers Harry Kewell and Mark Viduka, has not qualified since 1974.

Sidekick FIFA is calling on the United States and Mexico to make presentations to play host to the 2003 FIFA Club World Championship. Both associations will confirm their interests by Friday.

Americans overseas Claudio Reyna's stock continues to rise. This week his coach with the Glasgow Rangers, Dick Advocaat, sent out a warning that the talented midfielder was not for sale, after a $4.9 million bid from Premier League club Sunderland leaked to the media.

"It's quite simple," the Dutch coach said. "Claudio Reyna is, this season, not for sale."

Reyna joined the Rangers from German club Wolfsburg for $2.8 million in 1999. The Scottish giants are seeking to extend his contract, which runs out next summer. …

Forward Joe-Max Moore, who has made just one start (League Cup) for Everton this season, could be on the way out in the Premier League. Moore didn't even make the bench for tomorrow's game against Chelsea, where he was overlooked in favor of a defender. Moore wants to play some regular soccer in order to gain a place on the U.S. World Cup team. There are rumors that Everton wants to trade him to a German team.

MLS notes All 12 Major League Soccer teams elected not to pick any of the 26 players from the MLS waiver draft this week the first time no players were selected. This means that notable MLS players like Paul Bravo (Colorado), Raul Diaz Arce (Colorado), Geoff Aunger (Colorado), Pete Marino (Miami), Mark Semioli (MetroStars) and Miles Joseph (Dallas) are without a club. … Galaxy player Greg Vanney is getting a tryout with German team FC Nuremberg. Vanney could join Tony Sanneh, another American playing for the struggling team.

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