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Wednesday, June 30, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
By José Miguel Romero
Adrian Hanauer appears to have his ownership group in place for when or if Major League Soccer awards an expansion franchise to Seattle.
The only thing the Seattle Sounders general manager can do now is wait.
The league is expected to name a second new team, joining Chivas USA of Los Angeles, by the middle of next month, and Seattle remains one of the front-runners to get a franchise. Salt Lake City is another candidate, and could be the league's first choice, according to published reports.
If Salt Lake City gets the 12th MLS team, Hanauer and Seattle will look toward 2006, when MLS seeks to expand by two teams. But a report in this week's SportsBusiness Journal quoted MLS commissioner Don Garber as saying Seattle "absolutely has an inside track" on getting a team for 2005.
The report said Seahawks owner Paul Allen, who built Qwest Field (formerly called Seahawks Stadium) with the hope that MLS would come to Seattle, could have significant interest in the new franchise. Such interest might be what seals the deal for Seattle, whether it gets a franchise for 2005 or 2006.
The Sports Illustrated.com report on its Web site said the Salt Lake City bid spearheaded by Dave Checketts, the former Utah Jazz and New York Knicks president, has taken the lead over Seattle for the other 2005 expansion team. But the story also said both cities possibly could make up the next round of expansion in 2006, with Chivas the only new team for 2005.
That's Hanauer's understanding.
"I would think it's either Seattle, Salt Lake City or the possibility of 11 franchises for 2005," he said.
Trey Fitz-Gerald, MLS senior director of communications, told the Salt Lake Tribune on Friday that it's too early to say who the front-runner is, but added the "commissioners talked about Salt Lake kind of emerging from the pool."
Fitz-Gerald and other MLS officials could not be reached for comment.
"If a week from now they (MLS officials) say, 'Let's get it together,' we're not starting from scratch completely," he said. "It's more strategic decisions as opposed to action on anything."
Hanauer said he and Garber talk "almost every day" about the possibility of a franchise, the league itself or its players, among other topics.
Hanauer still seems to be leaning more toward 2006.
"I've said that emotionally I prefer 2005, but from a logistical and financial standpoint, 2006 makes sense," he said. "We pretty much have the ownership piece squared away, enough so that it's not my biggest concern."
Hanauer said he and his family would own 50 to 60 percent of the new team, with either one investor or a group of five owning the rest. But Hanauer, who said he was ready to pay the MLS' $10 million franchise fee, would not identify the person or group.
If Seattle lands a team, Hanauer must find sponsors, put together a business plan, set ticket prices and develop season-ticket packages, figure out the configuration of Qwest Field for soccer and address player and coaching issues. He also would have to decide whether to keep the Sounders brand or change the team name and logo.
José Miguel Romero: 206-464-2409 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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