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Thursday, October 11, 2007 - Page updated at 02:01 AM

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MLS | Gooooal? City may soon have franchise

Seattle Times staff reporter

Seattle appears to be on the brink of getting a Major League Soccer franchise for 2009 now that Paul Allen has joined the potential ownership group.

"Hopefully, some time this fall we will be in a position to have something to announce," said Seahawks vice president Gary Wright.

The Seahawks are owned by Allen, and the MLS team would play at Qwest Field, which is operated by Allen's First and Goal company.

Allen's Vulcan Sports and Entertainment has joined with Hollywood mogul Joe Roth and Seattle Sounders owner Adrian Hanauer to form the potential ownership group.

Vulcan recently came aboard, and Hanauer called the development "certainly exciting."

"I've known Tod Leiweke and most of his management team since Tod got to town," Hanauer said of the Seahawks CEO who came to Seattle in 2003. "I've continually been blown away at what pros they are and how good they are at what they do."

Roth's Hollywood career included stints as chairman of 20th Century Fox, Caravan Pictures and Walt Disney Studios before he founded Revolution Studios in 2000.

Hanauer said, "We're making progress" in efforts to get a franchise. However, he added, "Things can always sour in these sorts of things."

Hanauer said a report in the Sports Business Journal that said the expansion fee is $35 million is wrong but acknowledged that the figure is "in the ballpark." He had the same "in the ballpark" comment about the publication's report that Roth would own 50 percent of the franchise, Hanauer 25 percent and that Allen's company would have the remaining 25 percent in exchange for free rent of Qwest Field.

No decision has been made whether the team will retain the Sounders name if Seattle gets a franchise.

MLS has 13 teams and next year is expected to add San Jose, which at one time was in the league. Philadelphia frequently has been mentioned as a potential expansion partner with Seattle in 2009.

MLS commissioner Don Garber, in his state of the league address this year, also mentioned Portland, Atlanta, Cleveland, Las Vegas, Milwaukee, a return to Miami, Phoenix, San Diego, St. Louis and Vancouver, B.C., as possible expansion sites.

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This year's MLS championship game is scheduled for Nov. 18 in Washington, D.C. The title game will draw some national attention, and the league could decide to use that occasion to announce its 2009 expansion teams.

The league got major publicity this summer when the Los Angeles Galaxy acquired British star David Beckham.

Hanauer said no decision has been made whether to field a Sounders team in the United Soccer Leagues First Division next year. The Sounders won the First Division title this year, their fourth league title.

Seattle has had only minor-league soccer since 1983, when the then-big-league Sounders team was a member of the North American Soccer League. That Sounders team folded after the rancorous 1983 season, and the NASL collapsed in 1985.

Craig Smith: 206-464-8279 or csmith@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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