The competitive structure of MLS rarely stays the same for very long.  Between teams coming (and going), the white knuckle determination of league to hold onto its conference setup, and regular concerns over schedule congestion and travel, the people in charge of such things are constantly tinkering.  The number of scheduled games fluctuates regularly, as it will again next year when each teams plays 34 times, a four game increase over 2010.

With the additions of Vancouver and Portland in 2011, 34 represents the number of matches the eighteen MLS teams would play in a balanced schedule; because playing home and away against everyone else in the league seems the fairest way to determine who is good and who is not, and the balanced schedule is standard for most leagues around the world, there's a real value to maintaining the policy.  Though MLS kept the conferences for 2010 and allowed for the possibility of one of the top eight point-earners to miss out on the playoffs, and the seeding for the playoff is a bit...wacky, the regular season schedule worked.

The announcement that teams will play 34 games next year led to the immediate assumption that MLS will keep the balanced schedule; why else would the league increase the amount of games, and to a number the happens to be equal to playing every team twice, if they intended to scrap the format?

It's a good question.  But this is MLS.  Assumptions are a bad idea.

It's very possible that the league will have a balanced schedule next year.  Don Garber said as much to Soccer America, and noted that the format carries weight with some fans:

That has a certain value, certainly to core fans, and I think it has a lot of value to coaches and technical directors, who think perhaps it’s the fairest way to determine which team is the best in the league.

The feeling that a balanced schedule is the fairest way to do things is not unique to coaches and technical directors.

But Garber went on to discuss other approaches the league could take, including leveraging natural rivalries.

One way we believe we can do that is by having more rivalries, and by rivalry I mean a game that’s of great importance to you because it’s against a team that’s nearby or one that there’s a long historic connection with.

Another support of the rivalry approach is that you get an increased chance of a truly memorable moment. That could be put forth on a more regular basis.

From a business standpoint, the idea makes sense. Schedule more matches wherein geographic rivals face off; such a thing would conceivably increase interest, away support, and media coverage. When the Pacific Northwest becomes the league's hottest region next year, MLS suits will be desperate to capture that heat, making an unbalanced schedule an attractive option.

Though, in this case, I'm of the opinion that less is more. Just because Portland and Seattle really don't like each other and their matches are bound to be electric on the field and in the stands doesn't mean twisting the schedule to make it happen more than twice is necessarily a good idea. "Over-playing" a rivalry, for lack of a better expression, devalues it. The greatest rivalries are as much about anticipation as they are about on-field battles.

Garber and the league have difficult choices to make for 2011. More teams and more games are a certainty; how the league chooses to set up the schedule while juggling the additional issues MLS teams face (travel being chief among them) is anyone's guess. Garber essentially covered himself in the end, by declaring that the league looks at every option. He even admitted that realignment, perhaps back to the three division setup, is a possibility, while giving lip-service to single-table.

My preferred format for 2011 is a balanced schedule in a single table format with the top eight teams making the playoffs. I don't expect it will happen.


Decided to come back and add a bit more to this discussion.

After going to the balanced schedule this season, I think it would be a huge mistake to go away from it for 2011.  Not only is there a competitive fariness issue*, the balanced schedule gives the league a bit more credibility.  As MLS is wanting for credibility, holding on to what they can is important. For some, as per the comments below, a single-table would add more. Just as with this season, if the league does decide on a balanced schedule, the conferences are ridiculous artificial constructs.

The only mildly legitimate reason to hold on to them is to guarantee at least a few teams from each half of the country make the playoffs; the importance of that might lie in the potential TV audience (such as it is) and sponsorship concerns.

*As pointed out by @NickPoleto on Twitter, an unbalanced schedule, presumably with the benefit of more rivalry games, gives Seattle a massive advantage:

"If they go unbalanced they need to throw away the Supporters Shield b/c if Seattle plays 2 exp teams 6 times they're gonna kill it."
blog comments powered by Disqus
    KKTC Bahis Siteleri, Online Bahis



    Privacy Policy