As the MLS season approaches, MLSsoccer.com marks each passing day with a different statistic, observation or talking point, setting the stage for March 2.
19 – For the first time in years, no expansion
What’s different about 2013 than each of the six seasons that preceded it?
Yeah, yeah – no David Beckham. We get it, and we’ll leave that there since it's been done to death. Good luck at PSG, Becks. So long and thanks for all the fish.
But I’m talking bigger. Grander. More than just a single player.
Ok, then, here it is: no expansion. No new team to get to know. No new fanbase to ridicule. No new roadtrip to plan, or open container laws to research.
For the first time since the 2005 and 2006 seasons, MLS will have the exact same number of teams – 19 – for two years in a row. Back then, it was 12. We’ve come a long way.
2007: Toronto FC join MLS, ushering in a glorious new era for Canadian soccer (pending).
2008: San Jose get their second life after the original club had moved to Houston following the 2005 season. Shea Salinas, taken by SJ in the SuperDraft draft, decides to rent, not buy.
2009: Seattle Sounders invent MLS.
2010: Philadelphia Union join. Salinas, taken in the Expansion Draft, decides to rent, not buy.
2012: Montreal Impact make the jump from the NASL. In a departure from the strategy of previous expansion teams, they decide not to draft Shea Salinas. Vancouver trade him to San Jose anyway.
That’s how you go from 12 teams to 19 in half a decade. No. 20 could be around the corner, if everybody plays nice about the Queens stadium project.
Beyond that? I’ve always felt 24 is a good, solid number. Two conferences, play each of the teams in your own conference home-and-home (22 games), and each of the 12 teams in the other conference once (six home, six away alternating each year). 34 games. Sound familiar?
It works, but don’t expect to get there fast. The last five years were a blur which won’t be replicated anytime soon. For now, 19 teams is it.