MLS Scheduling: The Debates And Ideas Continue

Our recent pieces about the merits of keeping a balanced schedule and showcasing Vancouver Southsiders Vice-President Brett Graham’s paper on how this was feasible, proved to be very popular.

So much so, that the latter became the third best read piece in the long history of AFTN and was even featured on MLSSoccer.com itself.

Of course, all this talk appears to be moot now, and for the next two years at least, but we feel that the discussions are still worth having.

Brett Graham’s paper was heavily discussed, and supported, by MLS Supporters’ representatives attending last weekend’s Supporters Summit. Brett took fifty bound copies of his paper to LA with him, and we know that a few of them found their way into hands of MLS bigwigs and officials.

Drawing a lot of comments and discussion, it has led to some people sending us their own plans for what the MLS schedule could/should look like.

One such plan, which we liked here at AFTN, was submitted by Victor Zaragoza from Texas, which is for your perusal below. It evens looks ahead to possible future expansion, although I think adding another Texan team would be a non starter.

Let us know what you think the plusses and minues of Victor’s plan are in the comments section and if you have your own ideas, share them with us too. You can email us at any time at: aftncanada@hotmail.com:

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Two Conferences with single table each, not divisions. Top 6 make the playoffs, number 1 and 2 seed have a direct semi final spot, and 1st seed gets the highest seed.

Notice I am only explaining how these Conferences would work and not talking about the schedule, but they will give each team a total 33 games with inter and inner Conference play.

The teams which make the playoffs will obviously play more games, besides Open Cup games, friendlies and Champions League.

It is not a lot of games but MLS will eventually expand to 24 teams and these Conferences will even get better with my idea, plus it will define a real Champion with playoffs and still make the Supporters Shield very important.

Phillip F. Anschutz Conference:

10 teams – 5 Western and 5 Eastern, for a purpose. Teams are placed in this Conference for the purpose of decreasing travel and to make rivalries more intense. Also to make the MLS Cup very interesting.

Vancouver (Western)
Portland (Western)
La Galaxy (Western)
Real Salt Lake (Western)
Houston (Western)
DC (Eastern)
New York Red Bulls (Eastern)
New England (Eastern)
Toronto (Eastern)
Chicago (Eastern)

Lamar Hunt Conference:

10 teams – placed in this conference for less travel and to give fuel to rivalries.

For instance, Seattle will still play Portland twice, or even three times if they meet in the MLS Cup, but this will be explained later.

Seattle (Western)
Chivas (Western)
San Jose (Western)
Dallas (Western)
Colorado (Western)
New York Cosmos (Eastern)
Philadelphia (Eastern)
Montreal (Eastern)
Kansas City (Eastern)
Columbus (Eastern)

Fixtures:

– Teams will play their Conference rivals twice, home and away, for a total of 18 games from innerconference play.

– For inter-regional play Anschutz Conference West teams play TWICE vs Lamar Hunt Conference West teams, home and away.

– Same thing for the Anschutz Conference East teams. They will play TWICE vs Lamar Hunt Conference East teams, home and away.

– There would be a total of 10 games for each team in this inter-regional play.

– Each team will then only play ONCE versus non regional inter-conference rivals (ie: Anschutz WEST TEAM vs Lamar Hunt EAST TEAM) during the season, in order for less travel. Teams will take turns, one season home, the other season away.

– There would be a total of 5 games per team in NON regional interplay in order to decrease travel.

– In total each team will play 33 games when the league reaches 20 teams.

– This Conferences plan can still be input with adding two bye weeks to each team in 2012, like a ghost team. But remember once the league expands to 24 teams, each team will play a total of 38 games, if possible, plus playoffs and other tournaments.

The non regional play is what will make the League spark every season, due to the team only playing that team once a season in a pattern.

Playoffs:

As for the playoffs, the top six of each Conference will make it. The top two seeded team will have a direct semi-final spot. Then when the league increases to 24 teams, you can make it the top seven with only the number one see getting an automatic semifinal spot.

As for the Supporters Shield, I would give them the right to host the MLS Cup (whether they reach the final or not).

I feel that these Conferences will give every season a true Supporters Shield winner and a true MLS Cup champion.

These Conferences will give the MLS Cup unique matchups every year, no matter what. Statistics can’t give you this, but these Conferences can.

The Future:

As for expansion, if possible it must be done based on the set-ups of these Conferences. MLS can be a 22 or 24 team league, given it up to 38 regular season games, plus playoffs, Champions League and US Open Cup games.

As a suggestion, I would see the Phillip F. Anschutz Conference receiving Baltimore as an Eastern team and Las Vegas as a Western one.

The Lamar Hunt Conference could receive San Antonio for the Western games and Detroit for the Eastern.

Victor Zaragoza

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