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November 20, 2011 at 3:14 PM

MLS announces changes to 2012 schedule, playoff format

MLS Logo.jpgThe addition of the Montreal Impact as a 19th MLS franchise, and the league’s disfavor of maintaining a balanced schedule at 36 games, was going to result in some changes for the 2012 season. Those moves were announced by MLS on Sunday, so here we go:

  • Montreal will join the Eastern Conference as a 10th team. The nine teams in the West will remain the same.
  • The 34-game unbalanced schedule for teams in the West will consist of three games against each other Western Conference team (24 games total, two games at home vs. half, two games on the road vs. half, schedule reversed in 2013) and one game against each Eastern Conference team (10 games total, half at home, half on the road, schedule reversed in 2013).
  • It gets a little more complicated in the East. Those teams will play seven other Eastern Conference teams three times and two other Eastern Conference teams twice (25 games total). They will also play against each Western Conference team once (nine games total, home and aways to be reversed in 2013).
  • 10 teams advance to the playoffs, but this time it’s just the top five from each conference. The unbalanced, conference-heavy schedule has gotten rid of the need for wild cards.
  • The fourth- and fifth-place finishers play a single knockout game with the winner facing the No. 1 seed in the conference semifinals. The conference semifinals and now also the conference finals will be two-leg, home-and-home series.
  • As has been talked about earlier, MLS Cup hosting rights will be given to the finalist with the best regular-season record. It will no longer be played at a predetermined site.
  • The 2012 regular season will begin in March and end in October. Specifics should be announced by the end of January.

* * *

What do you think of the changes? Excited for six games against Cascadia rivals in 2012? Too many? Disappointed with so few games against Eastern Conference teams? How about the tweaks to the playoff structure (no wild cards, making the conference finals two-game series, having the team with the best record host the MLS Cup)?

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