Major League Soccer has announced its new scheduling format for the 2012 season:
Western Conference clubs will play each other three times, totaling 24 matches. They will play four conference opponents twice at home and once away, and play the other four conference opponents twice away and once at home. The location arrangement will be reversed in 2013. West clubs will complete their schedule by playing each of the 10 Eastern Conference clubs once. Five of matches will be at home and five will be on the road. Again, the arrangement will be reversed in 2013. Due to the higher number of clubs in the Eastern Conference, things are a little different on that side. Each club will play a total of 25 conference matches. Each East club will play seven of their conference opponents three times each (21 total games) and the remaining two conference opponents twice each (4 games). To complete their full slate, East teams will then play the nine West teams once each. Those nine games will be split either five at home and four away or vice versa. The locations will be reversed in 2013.
Reaction: MLS could have and should have continued with a balanced schedule with 19 teams ... and even with 20. However, three annual games against Portland and Vancouver seem like increased fun without reaching the point of saturation or overkill. It also should cut down quite a bit on the Sounders' incredible annual total of travel miles, which should be a good thing for them.
Beyond that, I'll bet right now that the 2012 Supporters Shield winner comes from the East.