The state Senate adjourned yesterday without approving funding for a Major League Soccer (MLS) stadium in Chester - the potential home of a Philadelphia expansion team - but there is still time to strike a deal, state officials said.

So don't give up hope yet, Philadelphia soccer fans.

The league and a group of investors led by iStar Financial Chief Executive Officer Jay Sugarman is trying to secure about $45 million from the state to build the 20,000-seat, $115 million stadium on the Chester waterfront.

While the Senate has yet to vote on the capital projects bill that contains the funding, Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi said yesterday that an agreement could be reached over the Christmas break - or the state could find the money elsewhere.

"There's nothing that has come forward so far that has made me believe that the project cannot be successful," said Pileggi, a former Chester mayor.

Pileggi said MLS officials need "clarity" on whether the state will commit to spending the cash "by the end of this calendar year or the very beginning of 2008."

"Hope is still alive," said Chuck Ardo, spokesman for Gov. Rendell, who is backing the project. Philadelphia is competing with St. Louis to be the home of the league's 16th team. *