TOKYO — The league may be smaller, but the playoff field got larger.

The U.S. Forces Japan-American Football League released the 2004 schedule, and it includes a postseason featuring all four teams.

In the past four seasons, three teams made the playoffs, with the regular season champ getting an automatic spot in the championship game against the winner of a game between the second- and third-place finishers.

“We want to create as interesting a playoff scenario as we can,” said Kyle Rhodus, the league’s new commissioner, adding that he he hoped that the new format would help a league that shrunk from seven teams last year to four for this season.

Kadena, Courtney-Hansen and Futenma of Okinawa withdrew from the USFJ-AFL in anticipation of the formation of a Marine Corps Community Services League.

The regular season begins June 26, with Yokosuka at Yokota and Atsugi at Misawa. Teams will play a home-and-home series with the other three teams. Three bye weeks will be built in to the schedule to offset any postponements, something that has plagued the league in the past.

The season is scheduled to end Aug. 14, with playoffs beginning on Aug. 28. The title game, which Rhodus has dubbed the Torii Bowl, is scheduled for Sept. 4.

Also for the first time, the league will stage a preseason jamboree on June 19 at Berkey Field, Yokosuka Naval Base. Each team will play a quarter against each of the other three teams.

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Dave Ornauer has been employed by or assigned to Stars and Stripes Pacific almost continuously since March 5, 1981. He covers interservice and high school sports at DODEA-Pacific schools and manages the Pacific Storm Tracker.

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