With Major League Soccer at the all-star break of its nearly seven-month regular season, it's a good time to look at some of the notable teams, players and statistics:
Best Teams: Colorado Rapids, D.C. United and Columbus Crew, although none has been dominant.
Worst Team: Clearly, the New York/New Jersey MetroStars. In addition, the MetroStars were eliminated from the U.S. Open Cup by Staten Island of the second division A-League.
Worst Conference: Eastern, with only two solid teams.
Most Misleading Record: San Jose is 10-8, but eight wins have come in shootouts, which are worth only one point in the standings. Thus, the Clash is in fifth place in the West and a long shot to make the playoffs.
On the Rise: Los Angeles is 10-7 and in fourth place in the West, but with Mexican forward Carlos Hermosillo in a groove and new coach Sigi Schmid settling in, the Galaxy could win the conference.
Teams Hard to Figure: United is 7-3 on the road and 5-4 at home, where it lost twice last year; Dallas is 9-3 in games decided in regulation, 1-6 in shootouts.
MVP: There is no clear choice, although the top three are United captain Marco Etcheverry, the 1998 winner and '99 assists leader; Colorado midfielder Jorge Dely Valdes, a newcomer from Panama; and Dallas forward Jason Kreis, an American who is second in the league in goals and first in points.
Top Rookies: Kansas City forward Chris Brown, Miami defender Jay Heaps and San Jose midfielder Richard Mulrooney.
Most Underrated Players: Miami midfielder Henry Gutierrez, Colorado forward Wolde Harris, Dallas goalie Matt Jordan, Tampa Bay forward Musa Shannon, Colorado midfielder Joey DiGiamarino, Miami defender Leo Cullen and D.C. forward A.J. Wood.
Best Goalkeeper: New England player-coach Walter Zenga.
Inside the Numbers: Eight of MLS's 12 teams are averaging more than 17,400 fans per game, but San Jose and New York/New Jersey's averages were boosted by huge turnouts for the other halves of doubleheaders. The Clash teamed with a Women's World Cup semifinal between the United States and Brazil at Stanford Stadium and the Metro Stars added a Colombia-El Salvador exhibition at Giants Stadium. The All-Star Game in San Diego is being played prior to a match between Chivas of Guadalajara, Mexico's most popular team, and Universidad Catolica of Chile.
Biggest Distraction: In addition to pursuing the MLS title, United and Chicago are preparing for the CONCACAF Champions Cup, Sept. 28-Oct. 3 in Las Vegas. The winner of the eight-team continental tournament advances to the world championships in Brazil early next year and earns more than $1 million.
Most Unusual Retirement: Starting defender R.T. Moore (Maryland) left Tampa Bay to enroll in dental school.
Best Additions: Dely Valdes, Colorado midfielder Anders Limpar (Sweden) and San Jose defender Mauricio Wright (Costa Rica); Columbus's new stadium; more security at RFK Stadium.
Worst Departures: Colorado goalie Marcus Hahnemann, who abruptly left to sign with English club Fulham; ex-deputy commissioner Sunil Gulati, the architect of the league who angered prominent investor Stuart Subotnick and was fired by Commissioner Doug Logan.