Will the suit be tailor-made for the league or for the players? The most important off-the-field matter to be decided this season will be addressed on Sept. 18, when a federal court begins hearing the players' legal challenge to MLS's single-entity system. "Players want the freedom to change clubs when their contracts are up," says Fraser. "They want clubs to choose their own players and decide how to spend their own salary cap money. It's only fair for the players to determine their own market value." Replies Lamar Hunt, owner-operator of the Crew and Wizards, "Losing the lawsuit would be harmful to the league. Soccer has proved it needs careful nurturing, and labor discord and lawsuits are not positive."
How long will MLS stars continue playing in the U.S.? Lewis dreamed of playing in Europe as a kid in Cerritos, Calif., and this week he got his wish when MLS sold him for just under $2 million to Fulham of the English first division. Whether he'll be part of a growing trend of MLS defections remains to be seen, though. Moore, for example, has thrived since leaving last fall for Everton of the English Premier League, scoring six goals in one recent seven-game stretch. "The English are still skeptical of MLS and American players," Lewis says, "but with U.S. results continuing to improve since '98 and Joe-Max banging in goals, it's getting easier."
As for Beasley, he may already have an inside track. Though he has signed with MLS for two years with two option years, MLS could sell his contract at any time to a foreign club—possibly for a seven-figure payday. "I want to play in the States my first year as a pro, and I'm looking forward to this season," Beasley says, "but I'd be interested in going overseas next year."
Beasley knows he's being watched all over the world. As Hans Gillhaus, a scout for PSV Eindhoven, says, "I've seen tapes of him from the world youth tournament and MLS spring training, and what interests me are his ability at such a young age and his playing on the national team. It all depends on the tapes I'll see and the financial terms, but that will be decided in the coming months."
Nothing against MLS, but if you're allowed to choose between the Fire and the club that loosed Ronaldo on the world, it's not too tough a call. Memo to all U.S. soccer fans: Enjoy Beasley here while you can.