Rules changes in the world's most popular sport don't just happen.
But in the interest of making soccer more fan-friendly, the USISL has implemented some twists on the game.
Some of the most obvious:
A 30-minute-per-half clock that stops when the ball goes out of bounds or when the referee blows his whistle; instead of a continuous-running 45-minute clock that leaves fans wondering how much "injury" time is left when the clock runs down to zero.
An option to kick the ball in from the sidelines instead of throwing it in.
A referee's option to display a blue card for aggressive fouls. After a team is assessed seven blue cards in one half, the opposing team gets a "live shootout" attempt, where one player has a breakaway chance alone against the goalkeeper from 35 yards out, but defenders can come in to disrupt the play.
But by far the most dramatic USISL rules experiment is the concept of the designated makeup game, or DMG, which gives a team a chance to erase a loss from its record.
USISL teams play an official 20-game schedule, but are allowed to schedule 22 to 24 games, with the extra games designated as makeup games that can substitute for games canceled due to severe weather, travel problems or other "acts of God."
Tonight's game between the Cyclones and Greensboro Dynamo at 7:30 at USF is a DMG. Since the Cyclones have 22 games on their schedule, and since they lost their first two DMGs and have yet to have any games canceled, a Tampa Bay victory tonight against the Dynamo would delete a previous DMG loss and alter the Cyclones record from 9-3 to 10-2.
"We can actually have a loss erased under this formula," Cyclones president Luis Posso said. "Of course if we have two or more games canceled and can't make them up, we can get the loss back, but we're concentrating on winning Sunday and losing a loss."
Limited travel budgets and uncertain summer weather prompted the concept of the DMG, said USISL public relations director Mike Agnew. "It's something different, but one of our experimental rules last year, sudden-death overtime, has now been adopted by FIFA," soccer's international governing body, he said.
The Cyclones have one DMG remaining, July 30 against the Tulsa Roughnecks at Bradenton.
_ DAVID BRACKMAN