MLS forced to review internationals policy

DEAN MCNULTY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:47 AM ET

The mess that Major League Soccer finds itself in this weekend with a number of teams -- including Toronto FC -- playing with depleted rosters because of international call-ups for World Cup qualifying games has forced league bosses to look at changing the rules for 2009, Sun Media has learned.

Sources inside the MLS office in New York told Sun Media this week that the league's competition committee meeting scheduled for later this month has re-jigged its agenda to sort out how to keep such international matches from disrupting games again next season.

"That will be the No. 1 item on the agenda," the source said.

This comes after Tom Anselmi -- COO at TFC's parent Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. -- personally called MLS deputy commissioner Ivan Gazidis to seek a postponement of tomorrow's game against Chivas USA at BMO Stadium.

Anselmi and the rest of the TFC front office expressed concern this week that the team will be without nine of 11 starting players for the match. But Gazidis turned down the request, citing conflicts with television contracts that had to be honoured.

In a telephone conference call yesterday, Gazidis stressed that there was no room on the coming schedule for the league to move the TFC-Chivas game.

"Toronto was part of the process when we made up this schedule," Gazidis said. "We have a 34-game calendar with 35 weekends. There is no room this season."

But Anselmi's intervention apparently was enough to spur the league into action to fix the problem for 2009.

Unfortunately for TFC coach John Carver, it comes too late to help him in his preparation for Chivas.

"It is what it is," Carver said yesterday after training at BMO. "I just have to look at this as a great opportunity for our young players to step up."

There will be plenty of those young players on the pitch to start the game. In fact, things are so tough that Carver has only one true defender -- Marco Velez -- patrolling the back side.

"I went to bed (Wednesday night) with a note pad to jot down some kind of line-up and once I got past Marco, there was no one left at centre back, right back or left back."

The ever-optimistic Carver, however, thought back to a game earlier this season when the club went into an away game against the Colorado Rapids down five starters, again due to international callups.

"And you know what? Those young lads (who played) came through like gangbusters (a 1-0 TFC win)," Carver said. "You never know, maybe you will see that kind of effort again (tomorrow)."

Carver repeated an earlier plea to TFC fans that they show support for the young players tomorrow.

"It's so important that the fans get behind these young players," he said.

Help, of a sort, is expected to materialize today as TFC has asked Vancouver Whitecaps of the United Soccer League for the loan of defenders Jeff Clarke and Diaz Kambere.

"Hopefully, they will arrive (today)," Carver said.

Meanwhile, Canada's national team released keeper Greg Sutton yesterday to be with his wife, who is expecting their first child any day.


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