US Soccer Federation Starts Recruiting 'Replacement Players' for Next Month's World Cup Qualifier

NEW YORK - Associated Press- The U.S. Soccer Federation said Thursday it will start to recruit a replacement team for next month's World Cup qualifier if a players union dispute is not quickly resolved.

The USSF took the stance after the union rejected an offer to go to mediation in exchange for a players' pledge not to strike through World Cup qualifying which ends in October or November.

The federation said it will use players who have never appeared at a U.S. national team camp for the Feb. 9 game at Trinidad and Tobago unless the regulars who are unionized agree to a deal by Feb. 1. The USSF intends to hold a training camp for the replacements in Carson Calif.

"The players' association has left us no choice USSF spokesman Jim Moorhouse said.

Union head Mark Levinstein said the union would agree to a no-strike pledge only if management in turn agreed to start paying players under the terms of the USSF's latest offer instead of the agreement that covered 1999-02. The old agreement expired at the end of 2002 and the players are seeking a pay increase.

"We had many reasons to believe that their goal was to have our players play under the 1999 deal for another year without their having any intention of negotiating in good faith Levinstein said.

The USSF said that if players had made a no-strike pledge through World Cup qualifying it would have called in the regular players for the Trinidad game the first of 10 for the team in the final round of the North and Central American and Caribbean region.

Last week the union rejected binding arbitration because of the limits set by the USSF on what each side could propose.

"This is the second time in a week that the union has obstructed our efforts to get the U.S. men's national team on the field for the upcoming World Cup qualifying match USSF president Bob Contiguglia said. "