- Posted by Drew Epperley
- On November 20, 2011
- 0 Comments
- 2012 MLS Season, Features
Changes were bound to happen when Major League Soccer added a 19th club for the 2012 season. With an odd number of teams and a desire to reduce some of the travel for some clubs, the balanced schedule was going to go out the window for a while and changes were going to have to be made to the format.
Today, the league announced those changes.
First off is a big one, the MLS Cup final will now no longer be at a neutral-site game, according to a plan approved on Saturday by the league’s Board of Governors. Instead, the league’s biggest game will be played at the home venue of the participating team with a higher regular-season point total.
Another big change comes in the playoffs as well. As in 2011, the playoff field will remain 10 teams. However, the top five teams in each conference will qualify for the postseason without wild card spots.
The No. 4 team in each conference will then host the No. 5 team in its conference in a single-elimination game for the right to face its respective conference’s top seed in the Conference Semifinals.
The Conference Championships will shift to two-leg series instead of a single game, as they have been since 2003.
For the regular season it gets a little tricky.
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.
Get all of that?
For the most part this schedule change was expected but one that isn’t too bad really. I do like the playoff changes as adding an additional game to the conference finals could be good but the removal of the wild card round is a wise move. Having the top five from each conference creates less confusion and will also eliminate the cross-overs that we’ve seen over the last few years.
One negative to that playoff change is the possibility that one conference could have a team or two that gets left out of the playoffs if they aren’t in the top five while the other conference could have a weaker year with one or two teams in the playoffs that have a lesser amount of points than a club that is in the other conference with a higher total. All of that is possible now.
Another negative would have to be on the thought of San Jose hosting a MLS Cup. At this point Buck Shaw stadium would not be the best venue for this and they could move it to Stanford Stadium. However, MLS Commissioner Don Garber told people today in LA that if San Jose did earn the right to host the Cup, it would be at Buck Shaw Stadium. Small atmosphere but not a great venue for a final. Very risky on the league’s part if you ask me.
For the most part I am down with these changes. We aren’t going to have a perfect schedule anytime soon and that is something we just have to live with. We do know we’ll get that schedule much earlier next year since the league has the TV deals all worked out in advance and given the fact that more teams are in their own facility gives the league greater flexibility in scheduling.