The Children's Cancer Group (CCG) 1952 clinical trial for children with standard-risk acute lymphoblastic leukemia (SR-ALL) compared intrathecal (IT) methotrexate (MTX) with IT triples (ITT) (MTX, cytarabine, and hydrocortisone sodium succinate [HSS]) as presymptomatic central nervous system (CNS) treatment. Following remission induction, 1018 patients were randomized to receive IT MTX and 1009 ITT. Multivariate analysis identified male sex, hepatomegaly, CNS-2 status, and age younger than 2 or older than 6 years as significant predictors of isolated CNS (iCNS) relapse. The 6-year cumulative incidence estimates of iCNS relapse are 3.4% +/- 1.0% for ITT and 5.9% +/- 1.2% for IT MTX; P = .004. Significantly more relapses occurred in bone marrow (BM) and testicles with ITT than IT MTX, particularly among patients with T-cell phenotype or day 14 BM aspirate containing 5% to 25% blasts. Thus, the estimated 6-year event-free survivals (EFS) with ITT or IT MTX are equivalent at 80.7% +/- 1.9% and 82.5% +/- 1.8%, respectively (P = .3). Because the salvage rate after BM relapse is inferior to that after CNS relapse, the 6-year overall survival (OS) for ITT is 90.3% +/- 1.5% versus 94.4% +/- 1.1% for IT MTX (P = .01). It appears that ITT improves presymptomatic CNS treatment but does not improve overall outcome.