MLS: Big changes in store for 2000

As expected, MLS has banned the shootout, beginning with the league's fifth season, slated to begin in mid-March 2000. The bold move to eliminate the controversial tiebreaker was one of many new competition-related initiatives unveiled today. "As part of the most popular sport in the world, Major League Soccer has decided to bring our rules of competition in line with those of most internationally respected leagues," said Commissioner Don Garber. "Millions and millions of fans in America follow soccer the way it is played across the globe. Our core audience has spoken, and we have listened." The MLS Competition Committee, composed of the following members -- Clark Hunt (chair), Alan Rothenberg, Kevin Payne, Roy Kline, David Dubow, Silvia Kessel and Ivan Gazidis (league office representative) -- also recommended to the league's Board of Governors the following changes: Overtime: In the event that a regular-season MLS contest is not resolved after 90 minutes, teams will participate in two 5-minute sudden-death "Golden Goal" overtime periods. 3-1-0 points: MLS teams will now receive three points for a win, one point for a draw, and zero points for a loss; Timing: The official game clock will be kept on the referee's watch, moving forward from 0:00 to 45:00 and 45:00 to 90:00. Stoppage time: At the referee's discretion, injury time will be awarded at the end of each half and during each overtime period, if applicable. Realignment: For the 2000 season, Major League Soccer also will see its 12 teams realign into three conferences. The revamped conference alignments are as follows:
Colorado Chicago D.C. United
Kansas City Columbus Miami
Los Angeles Dallas New England
San Jose Tampa Bay MetroStars
Playoffs: Under the revised structure, each of the three conference champions advance to the playoffs and are seeded 1, 2 or 3 by virtue of greater regular-season point total. In order to fill out the eight overall playoff berths, the remaining five "wild card" teams are determined by the total number of regular season points, regardless of conference. Ties in the standings will be broken by the current league tie-breaking procedures. The playoffs will then follow a bracketed system, with the top-seeded team facing the eighth-seeded team in the Quarterfinal round, and the other three series following the trend (i.e. No. 2 vs. No. 7, No. 3 vs. No. 6, and No. 4 vs. No. 5). Teams seeded first, eighth, fourth and fifth are placed in the top half of the bracket, with the second-, seventh-, third- and sixth-seeded squads placed in the lower half. The higher-seeded team in each series will own home-field advantage. In the semifinal round, the bracket stays true to form, with the winner of the 1-8 series playing the winner of the 4-5 matchup, and the victor of the 2-7 series facing the team which emerges from the 3-6 matchup. CONCACAF Champions Cup berths: Also adding importance to a team's regular season performance are the two potential CONCACAF Champions Cup berths that are at stake to MLS teams. One slot will be awarded to the MLS Cup champion from the previous season, while the potential exists for the team with the highest regular-season point total to earn a berth. In the event that the same team captures both the Supporter's Shield (awarded to the best regular season squad) and the Alan I. Rothenberg Trophy (hoisted by the MLS Cup champions), the team with the second-best regular season point total could earn the privilege of representing Major League Soccer in the continental club championship. Calendar: The MLS Board of Governors -- Lamar and Clark Hunt, Roy Kline, Jonathan Kraft, Tim Leiweke, Kevin Payne, Alan Rothenberg, Robert Sanderman, Stuart Subotnick, Kenneth Horowitz, Haruyuki Takahashi and Don Garber (ex-oficio) -- also agreed to condense the 2000 calendar, with the fifth campaign nearly two months shorter than in 1998. Major League Soccer's 12 teams are slated to kick off the new millennium in mid-March, 2000. The league's 2000 All-Star Game will be played at the new Columbus Crew Stadium July 29 and televised live on ABC Sports. MLS Cup 2000 will be played in early October at a site to be determined, with exact regular-season dates yet to be finalized.
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