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MLS unveils new unbalanced scheduling format

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Interconference games will be few and far between in the new scheduling format unveiled by Major League Soccer.

The new system ensures that the Vancouver Whitecaps will only visit the Montreal Impact and Toronto FC once each — every other season, that is.

Each of Toronto FC and the Impact will go to Vancouver only once every other year.

Under the new format, each Eastern Conference team will play each Western Conference opponent only once in a season. The home and road dates alternate from season to season.

So, for example, if TFC hosts the Whitecaps in 2012, TFC will go to BC Place in 2013.

The move means that Vancouver and Montreal, which enjoy a great rivalry each other that goes back to Div.-2 and the Nutrilite Canadian Championship, will only meet once this season — barring an encounter in the NCC final. Sources have told The 11 that the NCC schedule will likely see the Whitecaps play FC Edmonton and TFC facing the Impact in the opening rounds of the NCC. The tournament is seeded based on last year’s league performances — and not influenced by Montreal’s move to MLS. So, Montreal is the No. 4 seed and will play the defending champ, while FCE, which finished ahead of the Impact in the NASL standings, plays the Whitecaps.

One thing MLS got right with the new format: No more crossovers. Next season, the top five teams in each conference make the playoffs. No moving from the Western bracket to the Eastern playdowns.

“The MLS Cup Playoff format in 2012 gives increased reward to clubs that fare well in the regular season and removes the possibility of clubs winning the opposite conference championship,” said MLS Executive Vice President Nelson Rodriguez in a release. “Having a competitively-determined site for MLS Cup is one of the most exciting improvements our Board of Governors has adopted. We believe this provides every club a tremendous incentive during our regular season and ensures a festive and boisterous setting for our championship game.”

And, even with the Impact coming into MLS, the Houston Dynamo will remain in the Eastern Conference in 2012. Not sure, in what was supposed to be a rivalry-based schedule, how it works to have Houston and FC Dallas in opposite conferences.

Here is the info, right from MLS:

CONFERENCES:
he Montreal Impact begins its inaugural MLS season as the League’s 19th team and will be the 10th team in the Eastern Conference. The Western Conference will consist of the same nine clubs as in 2011.

REGULAR SEASON:
Each of the 19 MLS clubs will play 34 games, 17 at home and 17 away.
All clubs will play an equal schedule within their respective conference.

Western Conference – 24 in-conference + 10 out-of-conference games:
Western Conference clubs will play each West opponent 3 times (24 games):
West clubs will play 4 conference opponents twice at home and once away
They will play the other 4 conference opponents once at home and twice away.
The home and away games will be reversed in 2013.

Western Conference clubs will play each East opponent once each (10 games):
5 of these will be at home and 5 will be away.
The East opponents each team faces at home and away will be reversed in 2013.

Eastern Conference – 25 in-conference + 9 out-of-conference games:

Eastern Conference clubs will play 25 games against other East clubs:
East teams will play 7 conference opponents three times each (21 games) and 2 conference opponents twice each (4 games).

Eastern Conference clubs will play each West opponent once each (9 games):

Some will play 4 at home and 5 away while others will play 5 at home and 4 away.
The West opponents each team faces at home and away will be reversed in 2013.

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