Major League Soccer announced Sunday a number of competition changes that will alter the format of the 2012 regular season and MLS Cup Playoffs. From a Red Bulls perspective, the addition of Montreal to the Eastern Conference will have an impact (no pun intended) on how matches play out over the course of the season. Teams in the East will play seven conference opponents three times and Western Conference teams only twice (one home, one away).
To alleviate any confusion, here is a quick breakdown of how the season schedule at Red Bull Arena will look, depending one of the following two possibilities:
- 4 East opponents twice at home (8 games)
- 5 other East opponents only once at home (5 games)
- 4 Western conference opponents once each at home (4 games for a cumulative total of 17 home games)
- 3 East opponents twice at home (6 games)
- 6 other East opponents only once at home (6 games)
- 5 Western conference opponents once each at home (5 games for a cumulative total of 17 home games)
The 2012 All-Star Game will take place in a similar window as the 2011 season, which is to say somewhere around late July/early August. Overall the new schedule format will look to enhance conference rivalries and limit team travel.
When it comes to the postseason, there are a few changes worth noting as well. Similar to 2011, the postseason will be comprised of 10 teams. However, unlike 2011, there will no longer be a wild card round. The top five teams in each conference will qualify for the postseason, with #4 an #5 in each conference facing off in a single game. The winner will advance to face the respective conference champion.
Both the conference semi-finals and conference finals will be home and away legs in 2012. The MLS Cup will remain a one-game competition, only it will be held at the site of the participating Cup team that finished with the higher regular-season point total.
For a full breakdown and bigger look at how these changes will impact the 2012 season as a whole, check out the league's official release here:
LOS ANGELES (Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011) – Major League Soccer today announced that the competition format for the 2012 regular season and MLS Cup Playoffs. Included in the revised competition format is a change with MLS Cup. Beginning in 2012, the League’s championship will be hosted by the finalist that finished the regular season with the most points in the standings. Complete details are below.
· The 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.
· Each of the 19 MLS clubs will play 34 games, 17 at home and 17 away.
o 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):
o West clubs will play 4 conference opponents twice at home and once away
o They will play the other 4 conference opponents once at home and twice away.
o The home and away games will be reversed in 2013.
· Western Conference clubs will play each East opponent once each (10 games):
o 5 of these will be at home and 5 will be away.
o 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:
o East teams will play 7 conference opponents three times each (21 games) and
o 2 conference opponents twice each (4 games).
· Eastern Conference clubs will play each West opponent once each (9 games):
o Some will play 4 at home and 5 away while others will play 5 at home and 4 away.
o The West opponents each team faces at home and away will be reversed in 2013.
“We have established a fair and compelling format for the 2012 season,” said MLS Executive Vice President Nelson Rodriguez. “This regular season will include more games between regional rivals and less total travel than we have seen in recent years. Because of the wide geographic distribution of MLS clubs, this structure should improve the quality of play, while continuing to give every club an equal chance of qualifying for the MLS Cup Playoffs.”
MLS CUP PLAYOFFS:
· 10 clubs will qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs – the top five in points from each conference at the end of the regular season.
o The 4th- and 5th- place teams will play a single knockout game, the winner of which will advance to the Conference Semifinals and face the 1st-place team in the conference.
o The Conference Semifinals will be decided by a two-game, aggregate-goal format (same as 2011).
o The Conference Championships will be decided by a two-game, aggregate-goal format (change from recent years).
o MLS Cup will be hosted by the finalist that finished the regular season with the most points in the standings.
· The 2012 MLS regular season will begin in March and end in October; specific dates to be announced at a later date.
· The 2012 MLS regular season schedule will be announced prior to early February, when it has been announced in recent years.
“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,” Rodriguez said. “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.”