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MLS Schedule 2024 - A Modest Proposal




Matt: Finally, mercifully, it’s officially the offseason. CONGRATULATIONS to Columbus for holding off the defending champions LAFC! Going into halftime up 2-0 probably felt good, and they knew LAFC would push to the end – but they were able to hold them off.


Josh: Although I’m a Western Conference guy, I also like to see a good team #BeatLA. And Columbus is absolutely deserving. If it wasn’t going to be New England, Columbus is one of my other top choices!


Matt: Now we can move forward. Rumors of a 4th DP spot have been put to rest (for now) along with the annual anxiety over a SSS for the Revs, maybe tomorrow the Revs will announce a head coach (probably not), the Quakes can start to reveal their plan for filling sizable holes in the roster, and of course we can all watch ticket prices for games against Miami escalate. I know that’s a mixed bag, but hey, let the Kit Leaks begin! Oh, wait, Miami’s already did. Well, at least they can anchor the inevitable parade of kit design leaks.


Josh: Nope - Revs announcements are one: MOAR TOURNAMENT! But truly congratulations to the Revs for qualifying for CONCACAF Champs! And two: Welcome Nick Lima! A team can’t protect everyone from an Expansion Draft, so I was sad to see him go from San Jose. And he made the Quakes’s lives hard every time they faced Austin. Great pickup.


Meanwhile, San Jose officially re-signed Kikanovic and Marie (great!) and let some options expire (Trauco, Monteiro, and Thompson, WHAT?!), so I’m hopeful for some of the budget and contract chess to play out in ways that I would like to see.


Matt: You and I have talked about dividing up the schedule a little differently. My main reasons: 1. I want to see different teams. I always enjoy a good tilt against teams like Philly, Columbus, Montréal, but some teams I’m okay with seeing less of. Put simply, I want to see more of the Western Conference. 2. Some of the travel demands are pretty significant, such as Houston having to travel to Seattle, Vancouver, Portland, and San Jose every year. In a similar vein, Miami and Orlando have to go to Montréal and Toronto, and St. Louis has to go to LA twice, along with Seattle and Portland. For the sake of the players and the environment, maybe we can lighten the travel load.


Josh: So this isn’t just a schedule change, but a realignment of the league, too. I think this is smart, interesting, and important. It could set up some better rivalries, better fan attendance, and smarter balance for the league.


Matt: Here are the existing conferences, listed from northernmost to southernmost:


Eastern Conference Western Conference

Montréal FC Vancouver Whitecaps

Toronto Seattle Sounders

New England Portland Timbers

Chicago Minnesota FC

NYCFC Real Salt Lake

New York Red Bulls Colorado Rapids

Columbus Sporting Kansas City

Philadelphia St. Louis

Cincinnati San Jose Quakes

Washington DC LAFC

Nashville LA Galaxy

Charlotte Dallas FC

Atlanta Austin

Orlando Houston

Miami


What if…andI know this is crazy, but what if…the league was divided into THREE divisions:


Northeast Central/Southern West

Montréal Sporting Kansas City Vancouver Whitecaps

Toronto St Louis Seattle Sounders

New England Nashville Portland Timbers

Chicago Charlotte Minnesota

NYCFC Atlanta Salt Lake

New York Red Bulls Dallas Colorado

Columbus Austin San Jose

Cincinnati Houston LAFC

Philadelphia Miami LA Galaxy

DC United Orlando


Minnesota is the outlier here, but, looking at my atlas, putting them with the Northeast divisions or Central/Southern divisions doesn’t make a significant difference. Also, with a team in San Diego in the very near future, there is room in the West division. 


Now, if everyone in the division has a home and away, that is 18 games (16 for the West division) out of the 34-game season. Teams could have a third game against their in-division rivals, like el trafico, el clasico, or…is the Snowy Mountain Cup a thing, like between Colorado and Salt Lake?


Josh: Hopefully they come up with a better name than Snowy Mountain Cup, but sure! And as a team who had to face LAFC three times in one season, limiting it to two in-conference matchups per season, plus meeting maybe half the teams from the other leagues - 5 from each, that would be 28 matches. And then in the alternating year, they catch the other half. And yes, I know the West still is waiting for San Diego to join in 2025, and it will probably be a third LAFC matchup for San Jose, since the ticket sales go so well.


Matt: So then with the remaining 16 games, 8 and 8 from each of the other two conferences. Poof, MLS is a little less regionalized by east/west, which I think is a good thing in terms of the overall league development. Plus, to minimize time in the air, have the farthest teams from each other (i.e., Minnesota playing Galaxy and LAFC, or DC vs Toronto and Montréal) on a Wednesday, then Saturday. 


Josh: Wait. Not just Saturday 7pm games? You wild man, you!


Matt: I know, right? If there were games at 1pm, 4pm, 7pm, and 10/10:30pm, it's like there could be soccer on all day on the weekends. I'll suggest that idea to other major league sports in the US...maybe they haven't thought of that yet.


Josh: I'm hoping that in 2024 above all, we start to see some Saturday afternoon games in all regions. Although I don’t see ticket sales, I’d also like to think that a few random Wednesday or Thursday evening games would be great for the community.


Matt: Plus, if out-of-division games started the season, this could allow the league to schedule games at warmer/indoor locations in February and early March. Conversely, in the hottest month of the season, games could be scheduled to the cooler climes. Of course, teams like Vancouver and Atlanta play indoors, so they wouldn’t be avoided in February (Vancouver) or August (Atlanta). I wonder if the STH fan base would have a preference about having an in-division game or an out-of-conference game as the season opener. You would have to go with in-division for the final season game, of course.


Josh: Although it would be hard for the warmer areas in August, I do think having in-league only for the last third of the season is a way to rally the fans to come out and cheer their team into the playoffs. But maybe the out-of-league start includes some in-conference, like a Rivalry weekend, as the teams are starting to get their footing. 


Matt: One more thought - for the postseason, instead of divisional brackets, have an open seeding singular bracket set by team points. This wouldn’t guarantee a final with one Eastern team and one Western team, so some people wouldn’t like that. Thoughts?


Josh: Number one Postseason request - one, steady, post season. No more playoffs with an international break. I’m sure the viewership numbers and I’d bet ticket sales reflect the major loss of momentum. First couple weekends of playoffs, we were watching everybody! But I wonder how many remembered to tune in for the Conference Champions and League Championships - not me!


Matt: Agree. Yes. Totes. Pleaz. I’m in. Word.


Josh: Nicely done. Let’s make MLS more fun to follow because the schedule is stronger, the fans can travel to away games, and there’s momentum to follow.


Twitter and Instagram: @RevsCoasts, @QuakesCoasts


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