SAN JOSE -- The Earthquakes are exploring three Bay Area college football stadiums as potential sites to play host to the MLS Cup should the club reach American soccer's biggest domestic championship in December.

The facilities are Spartan Stadium, Stanford Stadium and Buck Shaw Stadium.

"With those options we're going to find a suitable location for the game if we're fortunate enough to host it," Quakes president David Kaval said Thursday.

Although San Jose (18-6-7) has a long road to travel before playing in Major League Soccer's title game Dec. 1, team officials are working on contingency plans because all three options have shortcomings.

MLS changed the playoff format this year so the highest-seeded team could hold the title game in order to generate hometown interest. In previous years the championship was held at a neutral site, much like the Super Bowl.

San Jose officials rejected consideration of AT&T Park in San Francisco "because it's too far out of our territory," Kaval said. The Earthquakes' only home defeat this year came in March at AT&T.

Coach Frank Yallop previously has voiced preference to play at 10,500-seat Buck Shaw, where the Quakes have not lost since August 2011. They are 10-0-5 this season with some of the league's most vocal fans.

But the stadium at Santa Clara University doesn't have luxury boxes or adequate press facilities to accommodate MLS sponsors and national media. It also would be need additional seating.

San Jose State's Spartan Stadium has a capacity of 30,000, about the perfect size of a MLS Cup final. But it lacks a grass field, which is a deal breaker for the Earthquakes. Kaval said the team is working with Soccer United Marketing, the league's group that puts on big games, to solve the problem.

While putting grass over the stadium's artificial surface is expensive, "we can find a way to do it," he said.

The team played at Spartan Stadium for 10 years until it was moved to Houston after the 2005 season.

The reborn Earthquakes have played marquee games at Stanford Stadium the past two summers to overwhelming success. But the No. 18-ranked Cardinal football team is in contention to win the Pac-12 North and possibly play host to the conference title game Nov. 30.

The stadium wouldn't be able to hold major events on consecutive days for all sorts of logistical reasons.

The 17-13 defeat last week at Washington diminished Stanford's chances of reaching the Pac-12 championship game but it has a ways to go before being eliminated. Quakes officials need to have a plan in place when the MLS playoffs begin the first week of November.

"It is going to be very challenging," Kaval said of Stanford. "In college football anything could happen. That's a total wild card."

Stanford's next big conference games come too late: Nov. 10 against Oregon State, Nov. 17 at Oregon and Nov. 24 at UCLA. However, if the Cardinal (3-1, 1-1 Pac-12) fell to either Arizona on Saturday or Cal on Oct. 20. perhaps the equation might change.

The Earthquakes are trying to win the Supporters' Shield as MLS' regular-season champion to earn home-field advantage in the playoffs. With three games left, San Jose (61 points) is three points ahead of Sporting Kansas City.

  • The Earthquakes signed MLS All-Star defender Justin Morrow to a new contract, the team announced Thursday. Morrow, a third-year pro out of Notre Dame, has played every minute in 30 of San Jose's 31 games this season. He has alternated between left outside back and center midfielder.

    "Justin is part of a great young nucleus that we have in San Jose right now and we want to keep that group together," Earthquakes general manager John Doyle said in a statement.

  • Forward Chris Wondolowski was named MLS player of the month for September, the fifth time he has won the award in his career and a league-record third time this season. The award is given by North American Soccer Reporters. Wondolowski scored four goals and had two assists in five games in a month in which the Quakes went 3-0-2.

    Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond.