Staff Reporter

The World Cup is making the headlines these days, but there's the Galaxy to consider, too.

L.A.'s professional soccer team leads its Major League Soccer opponents in every measure. Its win-loss record is tops in the league, as is its average home-game attendance and sponsorship revenue. Better yet, the league's MLS Cup championship game is scheduled for the Rose Bowl this fall.

There's just one problem: The Galaxy still loses money and remains at least two years away from profitability, team officials concede. And the league itself is losing $20 million a year, according to David Carter, a sports management consultant who has studied Major League Soccer during its first two and a half seasons and who teaches a USC class that will be doing a marketing audit of the Galaxy this fall.

Mark Abbott, chief operating officer of Major League Soccer, refused to confirm or deny the loss figure cited by Carter, but asserted that the future of the league and the Galaxy is bright.

"It's not unusual in the first several years of a start-up operation for companies and divisions to lose money," said Abbott. "That's not unexpected. We look at this as a long-term growth business, and if we have to lose money up front until we establish ourselves, we understand that. That's part of the business."

While team President and General Manager Danny L. Villanueva said the Galaxy's prospects are bright, he conceded that the team, which is owned by a group of investors led by investment banker Marc Rapaport, likely will keep losing money through 2000.

"After year five, we definitely want to be in the black, and we're definitely on a trajectory to do that," he said.

Carter said he doubts the Galaxy can become a profitable venture that quickly.

"I don't see how they'll be profitable in three to five years," said Carter. "The league is losing $20 million a year so far. The ability to turn that around quickly is a problem."

The stakes are very high. "This is a very out-front, very high-profile league," said Carter. "This will be a much more significant loss to soccer than the other ones having failed in years past."

In L.A., the failures have included the Wolves, Aztecs, Lazers and Heat teams that never caught on with local sports fans.

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