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John Haydon: Klinsmann could bring MLS needed star power.

(Saturday, March 14, 1998) -- Major League Soccer, which kicks off its third season tomorrow, could certainly use a little more star power.

Soccer fans remember how Brazilian ace Pele and German midfielder Franz Beckenbauer put the North American Soccer League on the map. While Carlos Valderrama and Marco Etcheverry, to name a few, earn the league a degree of respect, MLS still lacks a star attraction. Could that be changing?

German star Jurgen Klinsmann, one of the classiest goal scorers in the last decade, and a household name in the world of soccer, might be heading to MLS. Klinsmann is not happy with his present situation at England's Tottenham Hotspur and hinted this week he would like to come to the U.S. after the World Cup this summer.

"America is certainly in the cards. I have my eye on football (soccer) in the USA and it is an option for me to maybe play football there after the World Cup," said Klinsmann in an interview with Kicker magazine.

Klinsmann has often spoken well of America since playing for Germany at the 1994 World Cup. He is married to an American women, owns land in Orange County, Calif., and often spends his vacation time hiking in the U.S.

MLS commissioner Doug Logan said this week that the league would have the cash if Klinsmann became available. "We've got a little pot of money that we are holding in reserve for a rainy day," said Logan.

MLS deputy commissioner Sunil Gulati, who handles all player assignments, said the most likely team that Klinsmann would go to would be Los Angeles. "Players of Jurgen Klinsmann's stature do get some say as to where they might end up," Gulati said. "But not the final say."

Klinsmann is not the only big-name European who has spoken recently of ending his career in the U.S. English national team stars Paul Gascoigne, 31, and Ian Wright, 34, have both said they would like to play in the States.

Although he has been the national team captain and has scored 43 goals for the team in 100 games, Klinsmann is no longer guaranteed a starting place in the German lineup. The possibility exists that he may be left off the German World Cup roster altogether. If that is the case, he could end up in America sooner rather than later. Klinsmann arrival might even cause a stir at soccer-shy Sports Illustrated. The magazine put him on their cover in 1994.

John Haydon is soccer columnist for the Washington Times and can be e-mailed at haydon@twtmail.com.

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