Shootout abandoned; league announces numerous changes for 2000

Click to follow
The Independent Online

American Major League Soccer announced on Wednesday it will abandon its controversial shootout method for resolving drawn matches next season and will replace it with an overtime period.

American Major League Soccer announced on Wednesday it will abandon its controversial shootout method for resolving drawn matches next season and will replace it with an overtime period.

The ending of the shootout, in which a player started 35 yards (32 meters) from the goal and had five seconds to attempt a shot one-on-one with the keeper, was only one of a series of changes the 4-year-old league announced in its attempt to appease its core audience and halt an incremental slide in attendance.

MLS will replace the shootout with two, five-minute sudden-death or golden goal overtime periods, and if still tied the game will end in a draw.

Sunday's MLS Cup championship game in Foxboro, Massachusetts, between two-time champion DC United and the Los Angeles Galaxy, however, will still use the shootout if necessary to decide the match if still tied after two 15-minute golden goal extra time periods.

Along with restoring draws, the league also will revert to the international norm by putting the referee in charge of keeping the official time on the field, adding "injury time" at his discretion to each half. For each of its first four seasons, the official time was kept on the scoreboard and counted down from 45 minutes to zero.

The reason for the rule changes to international standards was a simple one.

"We wanted to bring the game back to the core fans. That's the way the rest of the world does it," MLS vice president of communications Dan Courtemanche said.

The league also announced it will realign its conferences from two six-team divisions into three four-team groupings. DC United, Miami, New England and New York-New Jersey will remain in the Eastern Conference; Chicago, Columbus, Dallas and Tampa Bay will move to the Central; while Colorado, Kansas City, Los Angeles and San Jose will stay in the Western Conference.

Playoff berths will be awarded to the winner of each conference and to five wild cards, all determined on points irrespective of conference.

It is still undetermined if the playoffs will remain a best-of-3 series, ending - like the previous four - with the each game determined by penalty kicks if necessary; be played as a three-game series determined on points (three for a victory, one for a draw); or go to the international standard of a two-leg series with the result determined by aggregate goals.

Next season will start in mid-March with the MLS Cup championship game on 1 October, cutting nearly two months off the 1999 calendar. It still has to be determined whether the league will reduce its schedule from 32 games per team to as few as 28. That decision was still pending, Courtemanche said.

The league also will award the regular season champion with one of the United States' two berths in the CONCACAF Champions Cup, granting the other as has been the case to the winner of MLS Cup.

Another major announcement included a change in the league's television strategy, working out a deal with the ABC network and its cable affiliates ESPN and ESPN2 to create "Soccer Saturday", which will have the networks show an MLS game in the United States every Saturday, mostly at night but some in the afternoon. Games previously had been shown on several different days of the week.

Comments