D.C. United's Steve Guppy, the experienced English midfielder who has played in only one regular season game the last three months, appears to be on his way out.

Sources close to the situation said yesterday that the club is in the process of releasing Guppy, whose $120,000 salary is seventh-highest on United's payroll.

In a brief telephone interview, Guppy acknowledged he is probably leaving the team but didn't want to elaborate. United officials declined to discuss Guppy's contract situation.

Acquired by United in March after 16 years in the English and Scottish leagues, Guppy, 36, was asked to fill the veteran midfield role vacated by Earnie Stewart, who returned to Europe last offseason before retiring. Guppy's expertise is serving crosses from the left wing, a trait he displayed in his first few appearances for United.

He had assists in two Champions Cup matches and started the first four MLS regular season games, but Achilles' tendinitis in both ankles forced him out from late April until the middle of this month. He returned to play 59 minutes in an exhibition against minor league Rochester (N.Y.) two weeks ago and appeared in the final seven minutes of the July 15 regular season match against San Jose.

Guppy was among five reserves included on the active roster during last week's road trip to Kansas City and Los Angeles, but he didn't enter either game. Yesterday he didn't practice with the team.

MLS player contracts became guaranteed on July 1, but because Guppy was injured at that time, the club was given an extension to weigh its options. . . .

Ticket sales have surpassed 20,000 for Thursday's exhibition against English champion Chelsea at FedEx Field, club officials announced. Chelsea, which defeated AC Milan, 1-0, in Foxboro, Mass., on Sunday, won't arrive in Washington until late tomorrow.

-- Steven Goff