We had the news yesterday that MLS will keep its balanced schedule and go to a 34-game schedule next season.
And I was a little disappointed. Any MLS scheduling format for 2011 is going to be only for the short-term, as Montreal joins in 2012 and a second New York team or someone else will come in soon enough after that to even things out at 20 teams. And since MLS plans to stick at 20 for a good long while, that would be the season to really determine a long-term scheduling philosophy -- single table, anyone? -- etc.
But I always thought the 18-team 2011 configuration offered a one-time-only chance for a lot of fun: three 6-team divisions and a highly unbalanced rivalry-emphasizing schedule.
The Western Division would have been a natural, and a really fun introduction for the newcomers: Seattle, Portland, Vancouver, San Jose, LA and Chivas.
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The East could have clustered some natural rivals, too: New York, New England, DC, Philly, Toronto and Columbus.
The Central would be a little more spread out, but would keep together the Rocky and Texas and Midwest pairs: Colorado, Salt Lake, Houston, Dallas, Chicago and Kansas City.
Then, to take advantage of those rivalries -- not to mention help with travel/expenses -- each team in each division would play the other five rivals four times: two home, two away. That's 20 games. Then everyone would play the other 12 teams in the league once, making a 32-game season, and a lot of fun.
Far more fun, I think, than the balanced 34-game plan the MLS has just announced.
(Btw, I ran this past Sounders GM Adrian Hanauer, and he politely mentioned that he's a fan of the balanced schedule.) You?