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Women’s soccer league to begin in April

September 12, 1997

NEW YORK (AP) _ Tisha Venturini and Kristine Lilly hardly could contain their enthusiasm. Imagine how they’ll be in seven months, when the National Soccer Alliance actually begins play.

The Alliance expects to start a 20-game schedule on April 17, with eight teams, and play a 10-week schedule concluding with the championship on the weekend of July 4. Venturini and Lilly are among 18 members of the U.S. national team _ including 12 from the gold medalist Olympic squad _ committed to the league. As many as four foreigners per team will be allowed.

``We are excited as players,″ Venturini said. ``It is extremely important to be playing year-round. ``Other countries have leagues and are getting an edge every day of the year, in practice five days a week, competing, where we have two games a month. I don’t think that will cut it.

``We think we’re the best team in world, but we need more games to show how good the United States can be. We’re excited to have this league now, before the World Cup and Olympics.″

Lilly likes the timing, particularly with the United States set to stage the Women’s World Cup in 1999.

``Coming from a player’s standpoint, if you look back at the past year and other countries’ past year, they constantly have a league going on,″ Lilly said. ``I don’t have a league to play in and the development of the national team is affected.

``It’s obvious the level of play will rise for our teams and our country. That is why this league is necessary for us _ to compete with other countries.″

American women have competed very well so far, winning the first World Cup in 1991, taking third in 1995 and winning last year’s Olympics.

``There is still a significant amount of interest from the Olympics in 1996,″ NSA league development consultant Jennifer Rottenberg said. ``It’s been kept alive through efforts of the U.S. Soccer Federation, the Victory Tour the U.S. women had earlier this year ...

``We believe the interest created by that event is completely satisfactory to launch this league.″

The NSA still must get approval from the USSF, scheduled to meet Oct. 4.

Planned franchise sites are in such areas as San Jose, Calif.; Boston (Natick, Mass.); Raleigh, N.C.; Dallas (Duncanville, Texas); Southern California (Fullerton); New York-New Jersey (Piscataway, N.J.); Seattle; and Washington (Bethesda, Md.).

Stadium capacity will average about 5,000, but with the league paying players between $15,000-$30,000 a year, Rottenberg says the NSA only needs 2,500 per game to break even.

Former U.S. national women’s coach Anson Dorrance, who led the team to the 1991 world title and is chairman of the NSA advisory board, says the league also has been receiving strong interest from foreign players eager to play in the league.

``We will have a limit of foreigners. We just want the cream of the crop,″ Dorrance said. ``We’ve had an incredible influx of calls from players abroad.″

The foreigners will not be allocated, but included in a pool of players teams will draft. Local players also will be in that draft.

The NSA expects to announce team names, logos and allocated players during a mid-October tour of NSA cities. It also hopes to familiarize fans in those areas to the players.

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