MLS Cancels Rest of Regular Season

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Believing that "it is appropriate to take some time to acknowledge the nation's loss," Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber on Thursday canceled the remainder of the regular season.

Garber also announced that league playoffs would begin on Sept. 20, with pairings determined on the basis of points earned per game played before Tuesday's terrorist attack on the United States.

The decision means that the Galaxy will play the New York/New Jersey MetroStars in a best-of-three first-round series beginning Sept. 23 at the Rose Bowl. The second game will be at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., Sept. 26, with the third game, if necessary, in Pasadena on Sept. 29.

The other pairings feature the Miami Fusion against the defending champion Kansas City Wizards, the Chicago Fire versus the Dallas Burn and the Columbus Crew versus the San Jose Earthquakes.

Each of those matchups might have been different had MLS decided to reschedule the four games it postponed on Wednesday night and the six games that had been set for this weekend.

Garber said many options were considered but said it was his decision to cancel the games. The move was fully supported by the league's board of governors and came after extensive consultation with all 12 MLS teams.

"The driving factor behind our decision was the appropriateness of playing the games," he said. "We felt that this was a decision that was appropriate for our fans, for our players and for our coaches."

While Garber's decision was supported by all, conflicting views surfaced while he deliberated.

"It was as mixed as you can expect it to be," Garber said. "Certain players felt particularly strong about the issue and had been personally affected, as in the case of [the Miami Fusion's] Ian Bishop, who had a brother who was killed during the troubles in Northern Ireland. And [Fusion and U.S. national team defender] Carlos Llamosa worked at the World Trade Center during the 1993 bombing.

"On the other hand, one entire team, including the general manager, felt that it was an appropriate statement to go forward and play. There was a balance of thought in the MLS family and I don't think there was any strong feeling in any one direction."

Also canceled Thursday was the United States women's national team game against China that was to have been played in Kansas City on Sunday as the finale to the four-nation Nike U.S. Women's Cup.

The U.S. under-17 national team, however, will play Japan today in the FIFA Under-17 World Championship that began Thursday in Trinidad and Tobago.

The U.S. team, which will wear black armbands today in honor of the victims of the terrorist attack, also is scheduled to play first-round games against France on Sunday and Nigeria on Wednesday.

Before Thursday's opening match in the tournament, in which Croatia defeated Trinidad and Tobago, 2-1, in Port of Spain, Trinidad, a moment of silence was observed to honor the lives lost Tuesday.

In addition, the American players received messages of condolence and support Thursday from FIFA, world soccer's governing body, and one signed by all the players on Australia's team, which also is taking part in the championship.

Garber instructed MLS teams not to train today and said league and club offices will be closed as the nation observes a day of mourning.

The Kansas City Wizards, meanwhile, remained stranded in Lima, Peru, where they lost, 2-1, to Sporting Cristal on Wednesday night in a Copa MercoNorte game. The uncertainty surrounding airport closures and flights into the U.S. left the Wizards temporarily unable to return home.

The A-League said Thursday it will begin its playoffs on Wednesday, after postponing them for a week because of Tuesday's tragedy.

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MLS Playoff Schedule

(All times Pacific and subject to change)

FIRST ROUND

Thursday

* Dallas at Chicago, 5:30 p.m.

Sept. 22

* Kansas City at Miami, 1 p.m.

* San Jose at Columbus, 4:30 p.m.

Sept. 23

* New York-New Jersey at GALAXY, 6 p.m.

* Chicago at Dallas, 10:30 a.m.

Sept. 26

* GALAXY at New York-New Jersey, 5 p.m.

* Miami at Kansas City, TBA

* Columbus at San Jose, 7 p.m.

Sept. 29 (if necessary)

* New York-New Jersey at GALAXY, 7 p.m.

* Kansas City at Miami, 4:30 p.m.

* San Jose at Columbus, 4:30 p.m.

* Dallas at Chicago, 5 p.m.

SEMIFINALS

Game 1: Oct. 10; Game 2: Oct. 12-14; Game 3 (if necessary): Oct. 17

* Miami-Kansas City winner vs. Columbus-San Jose winner

* Chicago-Dallas winner vs. Galaxy-New York-New Jersey winner

MLS CUP 2001

* Oct. 21 at Columbus, Ohio, 10:30 a.m.

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