Major League Soccer will get a fresh look next season as the league announced Tuesday the new conference alignments that will be made to accommodate the two expansion teams, Club Deportivo Chivas USA and Real Salt Lake. Both new sides will join the Western Conference, while the Kansas City Wizards will change conferences and play in the East in 2005, just one season removed from their Western Conference Championship.
The addition of the expansion teams will extend the regular season by two games for each team, setting up a 32-game campaign leading to the MLS Cup Playoffs. Conference opponents will square off four times during the season, two matches being played at each side's home field.
Non-conference opponents will face each other twice, once at home and once on the road. Advancement to the MLS Cup Playoffs will be determined the same way as in the 2004 season. Four clubs from each conference will earn playoff berths, leaving the bottom two in each conference out of MLS Cup contention.
The 2005 conference alignment should create several intriguing rivalries. The most obvious of those is between the two Los Angeles-based sides, CD Chivas USA and the Los Angeles Galaxy. On four occasions during the regular season they will meet at The Home Depot Center, which both squads will call home. Neither club has made it a secret that they will have it out for each other in 2005, both teams hoping to be the dominant MLS team in southern California.
Real Salt Lake will also line up against their expansion counterparts, setting the stage for an interesting competition to determine which expansion side is tops.
In the Eastern Conference, the notable change is the arrival of Kansas City. The Wizards will face D.C. United four times during the regular season after meeting in MLS Cup 2004. Bob Gansler's side will look to avenge their 3-2 loss to the Black-and-Red that saw D.C. capture their fourth Cup title in nine seasons and denied Kansas City their second title.
Jonathan Nierman is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.