Major League Soccer and its players' union tentatively agreed on a five-year labor contract yesterday, ending nearly 11/2 years of negotiations.

The agreement comes as the league concludes its ninth season with Sunday's MLS Cup in Carson, Calif., between the Kansas City Wizards and D.C. United, and nearly four years after the players lost an antitrust suit against the league.

The deal must be ratified by the players. MLS Players Union Executive Director Bob Foose said that because the season has ended for most teams, players have scattered and it will take several weeks before they can vote on the deal.

The agreement features an increase in the minimum annual salary from $24,000 to $28,000 next season and increases to $34,000 in the final year of the contract, Foose said.

* FIGURE SKATING: Russia's Irina Slutskaya skated to the lead of the Cup of China with a convincing win in the short program, coming back strong after an extended break due to illness.

Slutskaya, the 2002 world champion and Olympic silver medalist, missed almost all of last season, although she entered in the world championships, where she finished ninth.

Fellow Russian Viktoria Volchkova was second and Angela Nikodinov of the United States was third. In the pairs competition, Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo of China led after the short program despite slipping on their throw triple loop. In ice dancing, Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto of the United States led after the compulsory dance. . . .

Olympic gold medalist Scott Hamilton was diagnosed with a non-cancerous brain tumor following a biopsy at the Cleveland Clinic, neurosurgeon Gene Barnett said.

Hamilton, 46, was diagnosed with craniopharyngioma, a slow-growing non-cancerous tumor in the region of the pituitary gland. Barnett said Hamilton is recovering well and could be released today. Hamilton had been experiencing problems with his eyesight in the last few weeks.

Hamilton, who was diagnosed and successfully treated at the Cleveland Clinic for testicular cancer in 1997, was in Cleveland last week to perform in an annual skating show which benefits his cancer foundation at the hospital.

* TENNIS: Amelie Mauresmo routed Vera Zvonareva, 6-1, 6-0, at the WTA Championships in Los Angeles, extending her winning streak to nine matches as the Frenchwoman tries to overtake Lindsay Davenport for the year-end No. 1 ranking.

Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova hit 23 winners in a 6-1, 6-4 victory over U.S. Open winner Svetlana Kuznetsova.

* BOWLING: Liz Johnson was eliminated from the PBA Uniroyal Tire Classic in Wickcliffe, Ohio, a day after she became the first woman to qualify for a PBA Tour event. Johnson, of Cheektowaga, N.Y., lost, 4-2, to top-seeded Brad Angelo, of Lockport, N.Y.

* TRIATHLON: Nina Kraft tested positive for the endurance-boosting drug EPO after winning last month's Hawaii Ironman competition, the German triathlon union said. The German body said Kraft admitted using EPO because she felt pressure to win the Oct. 16 event in Hawaii. Kraft faces a two-year ban.

* OBITUARY: Hal Nunnally, the winningest men's basketball coach in Randolph-Macon College history, died on Wednesday. He was 65. Nunnally led the Yellow Jackets to a 431-232 record in 24 seasons.

* HORSE RACING: Pico Central, a 5-year-old horse vying for the Eclipse Award for sprint champion, heads a star-studded list of 25 nominees released Wednesday for the Grade I $300,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash.

The six-furlong race, run Nov. 20 at Pimlico as the feature of the track's "Fall Festival of Racing," attracted four horses exiting the Breeders' Cup Sprint as well as defending winner A Huevo, 2003 runner-up Shake You Down and local star Gators N Bears.

The handlers of Pico Central, who won three Grade I races this year before skipping the Breeders' Cup, are leaning toward running in the Grade I $350,000 Cigar Mile on Nov. 27 at Aqueduct. That might help the De Francis, one of only three unrestricted Grade I six-furlong sprints in the country, draw a larger field.

-- From News Services

and Staff Reports