PALM DESERT, Calif. (AP) _ Here's the NFL's dilemma.

It must put a team in Cleveland by 1999 _ that was written in stone (or at least in contract) when Art Modell took his franchise to Baltimore.

But where else? It's possible the league could expand by one team in 1999 and another in 2001, when there might be a stadium in Los Angeles.

There may be an inkling of that this week when the owners begin preliminary discussions about expansion, probably by appointing a committee to study it.

But while Los Angeles, deserted by the Rams and Raiders in 1995, seems the logical second city, there is still no stadium there that the NFL deems suitable.

``To be considered, you have to have a suitable place to play,'' said NFL spokesman Joe Browne.

One reason for the league's interest in expansion is the relative stability in the NFL right now _ Tampa Bay and Cincinnati, two teams that might have moved into the Cleveland vacancy, are getting new stadiums. Other teams that are looking for new stadiums will either get them or, like Denver and San Francisco, are too entrenched in their areas to move far.

And cities that were looking for expansion franchises have gotten them during the franchise free agency period of 1994-95 _ Baltimore (from Cleveland), St. Louis (from Los Angeles), Oakland (from Los Angeles) and Nashville, where Houston may move next season.

One city that's interested is Toronto.

But the NFL won't go there as long as there is a Canadian Football League. A move there also would face a major objection from Buffalo, which is 90 miles away and draws many fans from southern Ontario.

That leaves Los Angeles or some city that may be interested when the NFL officially announces that it's expanding.

That may come this week, or it may not.