By Simon Evans
MIAMI (Reuters) - Safety fears over the possible impact of Hurricane Irene have forced the National Football League (NFL) and other North American sporting bodies to reschedule or cancel events for this weekend.
The NFL, Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer and international tennis and golf tournaments have all been subject to schedule changes as Hurricane Irene makes it way up the U.S. East Coast.
Forecasters expect the hurricane to work its way up the densely-populated U.S. eastern seaboard starting on Saturday and extend on Sunday to New York, America's most populous city with more than 8 million residents.
The PGA Tour said on Friday it decided to cancel Sunday play at The Barclays in New Jersey and finish the opening tournament of the FedExCup playoffs on Saturday after 54 holes.
"We weighed all the options available to us, and under normal circumstances, we would obviously prefer to complete 72 holes," said PGA tour Commissioner Tim Finchem in a statement.
"But these aren't normal circumstances. The safety of the community, our fans, players, sponsor guests, television partners and staff is of the utmost importance."
Baseball's Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies will each play doubleheaders on Saturday to make up for games that were originally set for Sunday.
The Red Sox are hosting the Oakland Athletics while the Phillies welcome the Florida Marlins.
The pre-season NFL game between the New York Giants and New York Jets to be played in East Rutherford, New Jersey, has been switched from Saturday to Monday evening.
"Along with the NFL office and the Jets, we have closely monitored the hurricane and the forecast and its potential impact on our area for the past several days," Giants president John Mara said in a statement.
"After conferring with (New Jersey) Governor (Chris) Christie, (Jets owner) Woody Johnson and (NFL) Commissioner (Roger) Goodell, we have determined the best course of action for the safety and well being of all is to move the game."
The biggest impact on the weekend schedule has been in MLS which rescheduled three games, including the New York Red Bulls' nationally televised game on Sunday against the L.A. Galaxy that will now be played October 4.
MLS also said the Philadelphia Union's Sunday matchup with the New England Revolution will be played on September 7 while a new date for D.C. United's game against the Portland Timbers on Saturday will be announced next week.
"We expect that Hurricane Irene will likely cause hazardous travel and unplayable conditions throughout the North East. We appreciate our fans' understanding of these decisions," said Nelson Rodriguez, MLS executive vice president of competition and game operations.
The WTA's New Haven Open brought its final forward by four hours to a 1 p.m. (1700 GMT) start on Saturday in order to avoid any impact from storms.
U.S. federal and state leaders, from President Barack Obama downward, urged the millions of Americans in the hurricane's path to prepare and to heed evacuation orders if they received them.
(Editing by Frank Pingue; To query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org)