The 2017 MLS schedule was released last week and fans can start planning their weekends for this upcoming season.
In the case of those clubs facing the toughest schedules of 2017, they can use all the help they can get from supporters in the stands.The MLS schedule is broken up pretty simply: Every team plays conference opponents either two or three times and they face out-of-conference teams just once. So not every schedule is made the same, making the strength of schedule calculation all the more interesting.
Another factor that throws a wrench into this calculation is that there will be two new teams in MLS this year. Though, Atlanta United FC and Minnesota United FC are on every team's schedule, their effect on this number could not be calculated
Below you'll find the complete table, calculated by taking the 2016 average points per game at home and on the road for each team's opponent.
The numbers say that Vancouver Whitecaps FC have the toughest schedule heading into 2017, while Columbus Crew SC have the easiest road. Typically you would see a cellar dweller with the toughest schedule, because they are not able to play themselves, and a front-runner with the easiest.
Heading into last year, the Colorado Rapids had the toughest schedule, coming off a dreadful 2015, while the New York Red Bulls had the easiest. So while Vancouver's spot at the top makes sense, Columbus' place is a bit of a head-scratcher. Of course, there's a very small difference between their strength of schedule and many others.
This is also all based on each records in 2016, which we know, for most team's, will not be repeated. Vancouver's difficult schedule can be explained by having to make two trips to the Rapids, who did not lose at home in 2016, and a trip to the Red Bulls, who had the most home wins in 2016.
Crew SC are helped by the fact that they don't have to travel to FC Dallas, who had the 2nd best home record in 2016, or Seattle or Portland. They also just make one trip to Red Bull Arena to play New York.
Will those 2016 trends hold in 2017? Will the strength of schedule calculation we've made in January hold water once the season starts? It's a new year -- the matches will obviously tell the story.