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MLS reportedly ponders cutting a club or two

Major League Soccer's board of directors has discussed eliminating one or two teams before the season to reduce operating costs, ESPN.com reported. Owner-operators have spent about $250-million in the league's five years.

The teams in greatest danger are the Miami Fusion and San Jose Earthquakes, according to the site, which also mentioned the Tampa Bay Mutiny as a possibility. The site said no decisions have been made, and that MLS commissioner Doug Garber is on vacation until next week.

AUTO RACING: Emanuele Pirro (1 minute, 24.839 seconds) was fastest on the first day of practice for the six-hour Race of a Thousand Years, an American Le Mans Series race at Adelaide, Australia.

HORSE RACING: Spain, which won the $1-million Breeders' Cup Distaff, leads a field of six at Santa Anita, Calif., for today's $200,000 La Brea Stakes. Cards scheduled for today and Sunday at Aqueduct (N.Y.) were canceled in anticipation of a heavy snowstorm.

GOLF: American Jim Furyk withdrew from the Match Play Championship that begins next week at Melbourne, Australia.

CYCLING: The Swiss Cycling Federation barred Richard Virenque for nine months for his role in the 1998 Tour de France scandal. A court cleared him of charges he helped supply drugs to teammates.

SKIING: Martin Schmitt won the opening leg of the Four Hill ski jump tour at Obertsdorf, Germany. Tor Arne Hetland won the men's freestyle sprint at a cross-country meet in Engelberg, Switzerland. Pirjo Maninnen won the women's event. Kristian Hammer beat Bjarte Engen Vik to win a Nordic combined event at Lillehammer, Norway. Todd Lodwick (sixth) was the top American.

TENNIS: A day after knee surgery that was expected to keep him out several months, Mark Philippoussis said he plans to return for the Feb. 19-25 ATP tournament in Memphis.

HOCKEY: Vaclav Nedorost scored twice as the Czech Republic beat the United States 4-2 at the World Junior Championships at Moscow. Jonathan DiSalvatore and John Sabo scored for the Americans.

DARTS: Gayl King of Canada became the first woman to compete in the World Championship, leaving to a standing ovation at Purfleet, England. She won the first set before falling 3-1 to Graeme Stoddart.

SPEED SKATING: Defending champions Jennifer Rodriguez, who won the 1,500 meters in 2:02.87, and Derek Parra, who won the 1,500 in 1:52.48, led the U.S. Allround Championships at Butte, Mont.

ETC.: Jerry Reinsdorf, owner of the Chicago Bulls and White Sox, denies cutting off his ailing sister from a $10,000 monthly stipend she has gotten for 16 years. A $5-million breach-of-contract lawsuit was filed Wednesday on behalf of Judith Reinsdorf. Former Clemson basketball player Clarke Bynum, 39, helped subdue a man attacking the pilot in the cockpit of a British Airways jet. Bynum was awakened by the pilot shouting for help, said his brother, Edward Bynum.

_ Compiled from Times wires.

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