MLS will retain its two-conference format next season when San Jose becomes the league’s 14th team, once again scuttling the dreams of those who go to bed every night murmuring “single-table” over and over again.
But the league has edged a bit closer to a balanced schedule while retaining the 30-game format. Each team will play every other team twice, home and away, which adds up to 26 games (two games each against 13 opponents). The additional four games will be played against two “rivals.”
For some teams, an additional rival is easy to figure out. Expansion San Jose should play its California foes, Chivas USA and Los Angeles, which will still play each other two additional times, as they did this year. (Or the Galaxy can cross the country to play an extra game with the Red Bulls, assuming of course the league can assure the availability and health of David Beckham to jam the Meadowlands.)
Dallas and Houston have forged a great bitterness in just two seasons. They might draw extra games against Colorado or Real Salt Lake, which have their own history of enmity. Columbus and Chicago get in each other’s faces regularly; could they also get as worked up against Kansas City?
The Northeast corridor has four teams, three of which won’t want to play an extra game at BMO Field. But somebody will have to. Because of the imbalance between conferences in 2007 with 13 teams, those in the Western Conference played four games against its rival, three against other conference foes, and two games teams in the East.
Eastern teams, which played each conference opponent three times and Western teams twice apiece, didn’t need additional rivalry games. They will next year.
Heh, heh, heh. Intensifying rivalries is a measure of the league’s growth, as expressed by a D.C. United fan at RFK Stadium Sunday.
Whatever he paid for a ticket it was certainly too much to see New England play Houston on his team’s field, but rather than waste it, he attended.
His statement, “I really resent having to come here today,” had little to do with the chilly weather and everything to do with good old-fashioned bitterness.