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Calendar for 2008 already getting crowded
by Ridge Mahoney, December 21st, 2007 9:46AM

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Three major international soccer competitions are scheduled for next year, yet there won't be a shortage of foreign opposition for MLS teams.

Starting with the Pan-Pacific Championship in February and the CONCACAF Champions Cup in March, steady doses of competitive matches and friendlies will recur regularly before, during, and after the MLS regular season.

Reports in England state that Liverpool is negotiating with MLS - as was predicted in this column last August -- to play in the All-Star Game at BMO Field in Toronto, and both Spanish giants - Real Madrid and Barcelona - are discussing with SUM three-game tours.
Liverpool had been mentioned as a possible opponent for a friendly against the Galaxy at Rogers Centre (formerly SkyDome) in Toronto. There have been contacts with Italian and Scottish clubs to play the Galaxy instead. Also on the list of maybes is Chelsea.

A source says a game matching one of the Spanish teams and Guadalajara will be staged at the Los Angeles Coliseum and it's possible - but doubtful - Real and Barca would play each other in the U.S. If they did, the game might be played at the Meadowlands, which is one of perhaps 10 venues that are in contention to host the six games involving a Spanish team. Others are Gillette Stadium, RFK Stadium, and Qwest Field.

Among non-MLS cities, Philadelphia is a possibility (assuming Philadelphia isn't the next expansion team chosen).

Another source says SUM officials have discussed the possibility of staging the UEFA Super Cup - pitting winners of the Champions League and UEFA Cup - in the United States or Canada. Last year's match, between AC Milan of Italy and Sevilla of Spain, was played Aug. 31 at the Stade Louis II in Monaco, which is a tough town to top.

J-League team Urawa Red Diamonds is one of the two foreign entrants in the Pan-Pacific Championship to be played at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu Feb. 20-23. The Australian champion won't be participating, as the A-League Grand Final conflicts with the PPC. Instead, the loser of the so-called Preliminary Final - the penultimate match prior to the Grand Final - will join Urawa in the field as basically the A-League's third-place team.

Harbour View (Jamaica) and Municipal (Guatemala) have been paired with D.C. United and Houston, respectively, in the CONCACAF Champions Cup. Both MLS teams advanced last spring, only to fall against Mexican opposition at the semifinal stage.

Such matchups are likely again: the Dynamo-Municipal winner advances to meet either Saprissa of Costa Rica or Atlante of Mexico, and D.C. United or Harbour View takes on the winner of Pachuca-Motagua (Honduras).

Scheduling the second year of the SuperLiga competition, matching four MLS teams with four Mexican League rivals, is complicated by the 24-team CONCACAF Champions League, which is scheduled to start next August. The 2007 SuperLiga began in late July and concluded a month later.

Only if Mexican and MLS teams are excluded from the first Champions League round can the same time period be used. Some teams will be excluded from a preliminary round, according to one plan being discussed. Both countries will also be playing CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers beginning Aug. 20.

MLS has announced that New England, D.C. United, Houston and Chivas USA - the top four teams during the regular season - will be the league's SuperLiga 2008 entrants. The four Mexican League representatives have yet to be determined, though reports out of Mexico indicate the teams will be invited, not determined by any competitive formula. Defending SuperLiga champion Pachuca's busy schedule could preclude its participation this time around.

Those same four MLS teams are to be entered in the CONCACAF Champions League, which begins in late summer and concludes the following spring. Busy, busy.



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