American clubs keen to sign up Milicevic

THE visit by David Beckham and the LA Galaxy was public a relations boon for the Newcastle Jets but it could have repercussions - the Californian club is believed to be one of five from the US interested in Ljubo Milicevic.

The Jets centre-half, who is off contract, missed the Jets' 2-1 friendly win over the Galaxy a fortnight ago with an ankle injury but the Newcastle Herald understands that the Galaxy have since made inquiries about the 29-year-old stopper.

Fellow Major League Soccer outfits Chicago Fire, Club Deportivo Chivas USA, New England Revolution and expansion club Portland Timbers are also in the market for a central defender and are understood to have made similar approaches.

The former Socceroo has previously been linked to Korea and China.

Milicevic, who has been Newcastle's acting skipper in the absence of the injured Michael Bridges, has expressed a desire to stay in the Hunter but said he would consider all options.

Jets chief executive chairman Ken Edwards said last night that re-signing Milicevic and fellow defender Nikolai Topor-Stanley were priorities.

"I have spoken to Ljubo and he wants to stay at the club and we want him to stay," Edwards said. "But the salary cap is real and we are not going to operate outside of it."

The Jets snared this week North Queensland Fury striker Chris Payne for the next two seasons. His signature follows that of Ryan Griffiths last month.

The salary cap is due to rise from $2.35 million to $2.42 million next season, and marquee concessions and the use of $275,000 in service agreements are among a raft of A-League items on the agenda at a Football Federation Australia board meeting today.

With most clubs losing money, there have been calls for a reduction of all three, but Edwards was not in favour of any such move.

"It is a case of making the league bigger and better in our view," he said.

"We believe it would be counter productive to start constraining player wages or putting further limits on the ability of clubs to be as good as they can be."

Edwards pressed the Jets' stance - specifically the retention of the overseas, Australian and under-23 marquee players - at the recent owners meeting.

"We clearly stated that we prefer they remain in place," he said.

"Remembering that all clubs don't use them and you do not have to use them. But for those clubs who are structured and capitalised in a way where it makes sense, then those options should be available."

Pushing the start of the A-League season back to October, a reduction in the number of rounds and the axing of Wednesday night fixtures have also been mooted.

"We think 30 [rounds] is about right, but we have no issue with reducing it by a few," Edwards said.

"A lot depends on what they do with a FFA Cup, which we believe is a great concept and fully endorse.

"Wednesday night fixtures are a financial drain on clubs, but they were added to the schedule with the view to hopefully generating additional television interest.

"We are happy to participate in things that will lead to better outcomes down the track."

The futures of North Queensland Fury and the western Sydney franchise, Sydney Rovers, are likely to be at the top of discussions.

"It would be disappointing if the Fury were not in the competition," Edwards said.

"It is our view that Fury are important to the league.

"West Sydney is potentially the most fertile football area in the country. We think it is really important for the other franchises that west Sydney gets up sooner rather than later. It makes the pie bigger for everyone."

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