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Logan hints at ending shootout, possibility of overtime in playoffs.

By Jerry Langdon
Gannett News Service

(Tuesday, April 13, 1999) -- Look for the shootout to be history, within the next two or three years, possibly sooner.

Major League Soccer commissioner Doug Logan was battered by questions today about the controversial method of resolving tie games, with 11 of 21 matches so far this year determined by that method. He wandered all over the lot in a teleconference call, but he finally said, in effect, he expects "a different way of determining the outcome of tie games" in the near future.

He later ruled out overtime except for post-season play. He also said changing the standings to give losing shootout teams one point (and presumably winning teams two points) was a gimmick that he did not support.

What was not clear was why a decision on rescinding shootouts, if the MLS competition committee and ultimately the Board of Governors so acts, couldn't be made after this season rather than in "two or three years."

Logan also referred to problems he said the National Hockey League was having with tie games. So far this year 20 percent of NHL games have wound up tied. The NHL does have a five-minute sudden-death period, with 25 percent of the draws resolved with a goal.

Some points:

* "It doesn't harm us to have something controversial," he said when queried about having the shootout, in which a dribbler from 35 yards out has five seconds to shoot on a charging goalkeeper.

Logan feels the shootout is needed now due to non-purists' desires to have a winner. "The casual (American) fan feels happier with a result . . . The shootout is exciting to them."

* He pointed to top foreign leagues who have nearly 30 percent of their games ending in ties.

* Logan predicted that the current 52 percent rate of shootouts would decline significantly during the season. The average for the first three seasons was 19.5 percent.

He also distanced himself from the shootout itself by saying it was already decided upon when he was brought on as commissioner in late 1995.

Some observers thought he was hinting at allowing an overtime in post-season play, where last year's playoffs were marred by four shootouts in 14 matches. Whether that would be allowed due to television time constraints is not known.

Major League Soccer didn't introduce the shootout. The culprit was the North American Soccer League, the 1970s' predecessor of MLS, which was concerned about scoreless ties frustrating soccer fans.

A primary reason for the shootout, besides providing a winner, is to discourage teams settling for draws in the final 10 minutes. Just one tie has been broken in that period of time in the 21 matches so far this year, negating that rationale.

Cropping up a lot in discussion of the shootout has been the fairness issue, whether a team, especially on the road, which manages a tie - then loses in a shootout - shouldn't get some credit. Some coaches have urged that winning teams in regulation get four points (instead of three), opening the way for a 2-1 point split on the shootouts.

Jerry Langdon is sports editor of Gannett News Service and can be e-mailed at jlangdon@gns.gannett.com.

Editorís note: Jerry Langdon and SoccerTimes received e-mails responding to Mr. Langdonís column yesterday calling on an end to the shootout. Only one letter supported the continued use of the tie-breaking system.

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