Originally created 06/18/04

Without Real Madrid, MLS All-Stars revert to East vs. West format



NEW YORK -- Major League Soccer's all-star game will feature teams from its two conferences, a switch after Real Madrid pulled out of the midseason exhibition.

The game will be played between the East and West on July 31 at Washington's RFK Stadium, site of the 2002 all-star game, the league said Thursday. Five of the eight previous MLS all-star games were also between the league's conferences.

MLS wanted its all-stars to play Real Madrid this season, postponing the July 24 date a week to accommodate the nine-time European champion, a team with some of the biggest names in the sport, including David Beckham.

But Real Madrid finished fourth in the Spanish league and was forced to enter a qualifying competition to play in the lucrative European Champions League. Earlier this month, Real decided to play two games in Japan before beginning qualifying Aug. 11.

"They get vast amounts of money in the Far East, and considering that the U.S. tour would impact their preseason, it became a political hot potato at home," said Ivan Gazidis, MLS deputy commissioner. "I don't like it, but I think it's understandable."

The league said an MLS all-star team will travel to Spain to play Real Madrid on Sept. 21.

MLS spokesman Trey Fitz-Gerald said Real Madrid may play the MLS all-stars in next year's game or tour the United States in a series of matches connected with the league.

This year's all-star festivities also will feature a game between the 1994 U.S. World Cup team and an all-time international MLS team before the main event. U.S. national team coach Bruce Arena has agreed to coach the international team.

In 1998, the MLS pitted U.S. players against the league's non-Americans in its all-star game, and in 2002 the all-stars played the U.S. national team shortly after it returned from the World Cup.

Last year the MLS all-stars played 10-time Mexican league champion Chivas of Guadalajara, whose owner Jorge Vergara has been granted an expansion franchise in the U.S. league.