LOS ANGELES — 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.