A-League announces 2004 alignment, playoff format

PORTLAND, Ore. - United Soccer Leagues today announced the official alignments and playoff format for the 2004 A-League season. The 16-team A-League will remain with a two-conference format while eliminating the division format within. The Eastern Conference will be comprised of nine clubs while the Western will include seven.

The Portland Timbers join the expansion Edmonton Aviators, Calgary, Milwaukee Wave United, Seattle Sounders, Vancouver Whitecaps and defending Western Conference champion Minnesota Thunder.

The expansion Puerto Rico Islanders join the Atlanta Silverbacks, Montreal Impact, Richmond Kickers, Rochester Raging Rhinos, Syracuse Salty Dogs, Toronto Lynx, Virginia Beach Mariners and defending A-League champion Charleston Battery.

The 2004 A-League playoff format will remain relatively the same with the top four teams from each conference advancing to the postseason and playing in a two-leg, aggregate-score series in the conference semifinals and conference final to determine who will advance to the A-League Championship.

“Although the disparity in the number of teams competing in each conference creates the challenge of selecting a playoff structure equitable to teams from both conferences, we are excited to have arrived at a format consistent with recent A-League seasons,” said A-League director Tim Holt. “Selecting the top four teams from each of the two conferences puts an emphasis on the importance of success throughout the regular season, as well as increasing the likelihood of the added drama when teams face their rivals in the race for the A-League championship.”

The conference semifinals series will be September 3 and 5 with the conference final series September 10 and 12. The semifinals will feature the fourth seed against the top seed and the second and third seeds squaring off. The A-League championship will be held the weekend of September 18 and will be broadcast on Fox Sports World.