MLS Cup Playoff pairings are set
NEW YORK - All four MLS Cup Playoff Conference Semifinal matchups were determined following Saturday's matches in what is the final weekend of the 2004 MLS regular season. The Columbus Crew also secured their first Supporters' Shield in club history, finishing with the best regular season record in MLS, beating out the Kansas City Wizards based on goals scored after the two teams finished level on points (49pts). The dates, times and locations for the Eastern Conference Semifinal series between the MetroStars and D.C. United will be determined following Sunday's nationally televised regular season finale between the two clubs from RFK Stadium (5:00 p.m. ET - ESPN2).
Four teams qualified from both the Eastern and Western Conference, advancing to the home-and-home, aggregate goal MLS Cup Conference Semifinals (No. 1 vs. No. 4 and No. 2 vs. No. 3). The two teams left standing after the two-game Conference Semifinals will meet in a Conference Championship with the winners of each advancing to MLS Cup 2004 at The Home Depot Center on Nov. 14 (live on ABC Sports at 3:30 p.m. ET).
The Columbus Crew (No. 1 seed), currently in the midst of a record 18-game undefeated streak following a 1-1 road tie against the Colorado Rapids on Saturday night, will meet the New England Revolution (No. 4 seed) in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. New England, which needed a victory at all costs to clinch a berth, received goals from Gatorade Rookie of the Year candidate Clint Dempsey and captain Steve Ralston to defeat the Chicago Fire 2-1 on Saturday night at Gillette Stadium. After finishing tied with the Fire on points (33pts), the Revolution advanced by virtue of the season series tiebreaker (2-1-1 against the Fire), marking the first season that Chicago (MLS Cup 2003 runner-ups) will miss out on the postseason in team history.
The other Eastern Conference Semifinal series will match the MetroStars against D.C. United and the two teams meet in tomorrow's MLS regular season finale to determine the seeding. With one game remaining the MetroStars (40 points) currently occupy the No. 2 seed with D.C. United standing just one point adrift ahead of Sunday's match at RFK Stadium. The team with the higher seed hosts Game 2 in each Conference Semifinal series.
The defending MLS Cup champion San Jose Earthquakes earned a postseason berth on the final weekend after holding off the Dallas Burn in a dramatic 2-2 tie in the Cotton Bowl. The Earthquakes clinched the No. 4 seed and will meet No. 1 seeded Kansas City, after the Wizards held off the Los Angeles Galaxy with a 1-0 victory at Arrowhead Stadium. However, the Wizards did not score enough goals to capture the Supporters' Shield after finishing even on points (49) with the Crew. The third tiebreaker of goals scored, which awarded the Crew (40 goals) the Supporters' Shield over the Wizards (38 goals), was necessary after the teams were tied in (a) their head-to-head season series and (b) on goal differential.
The Galaxy, who settled for the No. 2 seed after Saturday's loss, will meet the No. 3 seeded Colorado Rapids as the two clubs open the 2004 MLS Cup Playoffs with their match on Friday, October 22 from Invesco Field at Mile High (9:30 p.m. ET).
The following is the schedule for the Conference Semifinal matchups in both conferences:
EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
COLUMBUS CREW (No. 1) vs. NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (No. 4)
Game 1: Columbus Crew at New England Revolution - Saturday, October 23 @ 7:30 p.m. ET
Gillette Stadium - Foxboro, Massachusetts
TV: TBD (Columbus); TBD (New England)
Game 2: New England Revolution at Columbus Crew - Sunday, October 31 @ 5:00 p.m. ET
Columbus Crew Stadium - Columbus, Ohio
METROSTARS (No. TBD) vs. D.C. UNITED (No. TBD)
(These teams meet on Sunday, October 17 in the MLS regular season finale on ESPN2 at 5:00 p.m. ET to determine which team clinches the No. 2 and No. 3 seed ... The No. 3 seed hosts Game 1 while the No. 2 seed plays host in Game 2)
WESTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
KANSAS CITY WIZARDS (No. 1) vs. SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (No. 4)
Game 1: Kansas City Wizards at San Jose Earthquakes - Saturday, October 23 @ 10:00 p.m. ET
Spartan Stadium - San Jose, California
Kansas City Wizards at San Jose Earthquakes - Sunday, October 24 @ 5:00 p.m. ET
Spartan Stadium - San Jose, California
Game 2: San Jose Earthquakes at Kansas City Wizards - Saturday, October 30 @ 8:30 p.m. ET
Arrowhead Stadium - Kansas City, Missouri
LOS ANGELES GALAXY (No. 2) vs. COLORADO RAPIDS (No. 3)
Game 1: Los Angeles Galaxy at Colorado Rapids - Friday, October 22 @ 9:30 p.m. ET
Invesco Field at Mile High - Denver, Colorado
TV: KWHY (tape delay at 11:00 p.m. ET)
Game 2: Colorado Rapids at Los Angeles Galaxy - Saturday, October 30 @ 10:00 p.m. ET
The Home Depot Center - Carson, California
Individual tickets are on sale for MLS Cup 2004 (via Ticketmaster or by calling 1-800-366-8652) at the following prices: $55 (sidelines), $40 (corners), $32 (upper deck) and $28 (goal line). More information on individual tickets and group sales is available by contacting the Los Angeles Galaxy toll-free at 1-877-3GALAXY or visiting www.lagalaxy.com.