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Free passes for dyed-in-the wool (and wet) soccer fans

Bad weather keeps neither a mailman from his appointed rounds nor a football fan from his stadium seat. That most people are not quite so impervious to the elements when it comes to watching soccer is a lesson the New England Tea Men learned all too clearly the other week.

Only 254 fans braved a cold, driving rain to watch the Tea Men beat Memphis in their second North American Soccer League home game of the season. "To be perfectly honest, I wouldn't have come to watch," confessed New England defender Chris Turner.

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So impressed was the club with the "hearty 254" that it is giving them season tickets for the remaining Tea Men home games. "We really wanted to thank them," said general manager Bob Keating. "These are the people we're going to build with."

The Tea Men, of course, will need a much larger nucleus of loyalists if they ever expect to fill Schaefer Stadium's 61,000 seats. Last year, playing at Boston University, the team's average attendance was only 6,500.

Now that the third-year club has moved back to Foxboro, Mass., it is more determined than ever to attract new fans. Team president Derek Carroll has indicated that the Tea Men's promotional budget of $800,000 is four times that of any other NASL franchise.

More important than promotional comeons, however, may be the club's ticket prices. A family of four can purchase a "family plan" ticket for $15, about what it costs for a single sideline admission to see the pro football Patriots play in the same stadium.

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