The Clean Sheet: Disappearing act?

and that is a stage where the product is finally being presented in a package as it always should have been: in appropriate venues.

I don't want to pay to watch soccer at Giants Stadium or Invesco Field anymore. I don't want to watch a good MLS game on TV with a nice crowd of 20,000, but played in a cavernous stadium that sucks out any chance of atmosphere.

MLS is a product, like a restaurant, and even filet mignon just doesn't taste like filet mignon if you're eating it at a Denny's. It's time to dine in Carson and Bridgeview and Frisco every weekend.

So Lamar Hunt has decided that in this form, the Wizards can not continue beyond 2005. It basically seems like a few different things could happen:

1) The team is sold and moves before the 2005 season: can't possibly see this happening. Call the boys in the front offices of Real Salt Lake or CD Chivas USA and ask 'em how hard they are working now to be ready for Opening Day. Now ask them what it would be like to start from scratch today (advice: hold back the phone receiver or their laughter could rupture your eardrum).

2) The team gets sold to local ownership: the absolute ideal situation, where someone steps up locally, puts together a stadium plan, and the team stays in Kansas City past 2005.

3) The team is sold and moves after the 2005 season: Unfortunately, if I had to guess, this would be the most likely option as of today. If the Wizards move to a city and an owner already under consideration for expansion, this is bad news for the league, as MLS would effectively miss out on a potential expansion fee. If the team moves to a city or ownership group that we haven't heard of yet, if they have a stadium plan as part of the deal, that would be the best alternative to new owners in Kansas City.

4) Hunt can not find a buyer: Let's not talk about this right now.

Again, this may be just a bargaining ploy by the Hunts to get a stadium deal done in Kansas City, but I'm not sure I think that is the case. For years there have been the rumors of the Wizards relocating to Rochester or elsewhere, and now that time may be closer that we think.

Whatever the case, this announcement by a man whose commitment to the sport will never be questioned definitely caught a lot of people off guard, and has put the Wizards into territory only San Jose Earthquakes players, staff and fans can relate to.

Wizards fans may want to turn away for this last paragraph.

Just one thought to leave with the fans in Colorado: If I'm Charlie Wright, the governor of coach-less Mile High Club, there is one phone call I might very gingerly make tonight: to a Mr. Bob Gansler. You never know ...

***

THE NEWS: MLS announced the realignment plan for 2005, in which Kansas City moved to the Eastern Conference and the two new expansion teams both come in to the West.

TCS SAYS: Condolences go out to all the single-table proponents (myself included). Congratulations go out to the executives of the lying, cheating Chicago Fire, who obviously pulled many strings to avoid being put in the same conference with my mighty FC Dallas.

Speaking of, I do want to give a tip of the TCS cap to all the Fire fans who wrote in to tell me what they thought of me, my column, and inventive places I could put my column. I will say the Fire fans, as misguided as they are, do know how to bring it.

As for the actual emails, the number of obscenities was only topped by the number of Fire fans who should be arrested for murdering the English language. Don't they have schools out there? I will say the popularity of Jerry Springer makes a lot more sense after reading your e-mails.

The Section 8 fan club guys apparently are making the anti-Tino scarf, as well as some admittedly very cool ones. Buy 'em at www.section8chicago.com, but demand they take your money and use it to buy Hooked on Phonics.

THE NEWS: Plant your Arse-nal on your couch, it's a big derby weekend across the pond.

TCS SAYS: Start yourself with the Merseyside special Saturday morning at 7:30 (ET) on Fox Sports World and don't forget Arsenal-Chelsea Sunday at 11 a.m. on PPV.

THE NEWS: And I thought marriage was tough on me ...

TCS SAYS: How about this one -- a player in Switzerland sets up a goal and jumps up on a fence to celebrate in front of the fans. The guy, who has just gotten married recently, doesn't see that his wedding band is caught in the fence. So when he jumps down, he rips off most of his finger.

That's not even the best part of the story. Get this ... the ref then books him for the excessive celebration. And we wonder why everyone hates refs! (Uh oh, that one's gonna cost me ... is that Joe Machnik calling?)

***

I want to take the end of my column to send my best wishes to the family of Tom Fitzgerald -- as both the Fitzgerald's and the entire American soccer family lost a truly good guy. While I knew Fitz a bit during his MLS days, I was fortunate enough to have our paths cross more often when we both were here in Los Angeles. I was new to the city and he was busy taking UCLA to a national championship, but he always took an extra minute to chat and see how my transition was going and talk about soccer and life here in L.A.

When he left one of the premier jobs in the country at UCLA to head back to Tampa, he cited his family as a big reason. We can all learn from that.

The Clean Sheet runs each Thursday on MLSnet. Views and opinions expressed in this column views and opinions are the author's, and not necessarily those of Major League Soccer or MLSnet.com. Send any questions and comments to tcsresponses@yahoo.com


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