If baseball disappoints the fans, soccer is hoping for a ricochet romance

If major league baseball gets bogged down in a prolonged labor dispute, soccer stands to benefit. A record 43 million patrons clicked through baseball turnstiles last year, and some of this number might consider attending a North American Soccer League game. Ticket prices are generally less and the seats are plentiful.

At present the NASL's two best teams -- the Vancouver Whitecaps and New York Cosmos -- are attempting to corner more prestige for the North American game in a new international competition called the Transatlantic Cup. If enlarged, the event could eventually resemble a soccer World Series, bringing together the top pro clubs. (The World Cup is more like an Olympics of soccer, because it involves national teams.)

This marks the first time NASL clubs have met overseas competition in a non-exhibition setting. In the opening games, the Cosmos knocked off Manchester City of England 3-2 and the NASL champion Whitecaps battled to a 1-1 tie with Roma of Italy. On Saturday, New York and Vancouver swap opponents.

The NASL clubs have the advantage of playing on their artificial turf fields in the inaugural Transatlantic shootout, but the Europeans should be closer to top form, since their season is nearing its conclusion.

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