MLS reveals 2012 conference-based schedule format
With the addition of the Montreal Impact to MLS in 2012, bringing the league’s total to 19, many have wondered how the schedule would look when there are 10 clubs in the Eastern Conference and only 9 in the Western Conference.
Now we know.
According to the plan approved by the MLS Board of Governors on Saturday, some things will remain the same, but there will be changes as the league shifts to an unbalanced schedule, or a conference-based schedule.
We have established a fair and compelling format for the 2012 season,” MLS executive vice president Nelson Rodriguez said in a statement. “This regular season will include more games between regional rivals and less total travel than we have seen in recent years. Because of the wide geographic distribution of MLS clubs, this structure should improve the quality of play, while continuing to give every club an equal chance of qualifying for the MLS Cup Playoffs.”
Each club’s total matches will remain the same, at 34 regular-season matches, and the regular season will run from mid-March through October, as it has in recent years.
Here is how the conference-based schedule will work:
Western Conference clubs will play each other three times, totaling 24 matches. They will play four conference opponents twice at home and once away, and play the other four conference opponents twice away and once at home. The location arrangement will be reversed in 2013.
West clubs will complete their schedule by playing each of the 10 Eastern Conference clubs once. Five of matches will be at home and five will be on the road. Again, the arrangement will be reversed in 2013.
Due to the higher number of clubs in the Eastern Conference, things are a little different on that side. Each club will play a total of 25 conference matches.
Each East club will play seven of their conference opponents three times each (21 total games) and the remaining two conference opponents twice each (4 games).
To complete their full slate, East teams will then play the nine West teams once each. Those nine games will be split either five at home and four away or vice versa. The locations will be reversed in 2013.
The league says it plans to announce the full schedule earlier than they have in previous years.
MLS makes changes for 2012 playoff schedule
Major League Soccer will have 10 playoff teams and more games between regional rivals under new competition policies in 2012.
MLS made several announcements about next season's schedule before Sunday's MLS Cup between Los Angeles and Houston.
Next year's MLS Cup will be hosted by the finalist with the most regular-season points, a long-rumored change from the league's tradition of neutral-site championship games.
After a regular season weighted for games within each conference, five teams will make the postseason from each conference. The bottom two seeds will play a knockout game to determine who takes on each conference's top seed in a two-game aggregate-goal format.
The conference finals also will be played in a two-game series, a change from this season's winner-take-all finals for an MLS Cup berth.
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I've been a fan of Real Salt Lake since it joined MLS and took to the field in 2005, and I've been a fan of MLS since it began in 1996. Lately however I've started to worry about the path MLS is taking and the poor decisions they are making that in my mind threaten the growth of soccer as a whole in the US. (see "Columbus conspiracy" section) Soccer in America will grow only when we have a vibrant and diverse minor league system, something that MLS seems to be smothering at the moment. (see "American soccer wars" section) Let's keep our eyes on the situation and hope for the best, a future where grass-roots soccer and the minor leagues can not only exist but flourish, as well as where the contributions and history of the league's early clubs are appreciated and preserved.