2010 MLS Schedule Released, Balance Reigns Supreme
Released on Wednesday afternoon, the MLS schedule is a completely balanced affair. Each of the 16 teams will play each of the others home and away. The two-conference structure will remain, much to the chagrin of the "traditionalists", because the entry of Portland and Vancouver in 2011 will necessitate either the addition of four extra regular season games (unlikely) or a return to an unbalanced schedule. Instead, the noteworthy affect will be this: Each game is a one-off event, the only matchup of those given clubs in that stadium this year. It should add an element of interest and intrigue to each fixture that MLS has not been able to produce consistently.
In addition, the MLS Cup playoffs, scheduled to begin on Oct. 28, will include just half of the league. This year it will be tougher to make the postseason than it is in either the NBA or NHL, in which 16 of 30 clubs qualify. Eight out of 10 when MLS launched in 1996 was ridiculous. Eight out of 16 is quite reasonable (the abbreviated format still stinks, however).
To see the entire 2010 schedule in a month-by-month format, click here. Here are some noteworthy elements:
-- All 240 matches will be televised, including the opener between Philadelphia and Seattle at Qwest Field on March 25 (ESPN2). ESPN and ESPN2 will televise 25 games in Hi Def, while Fox Soccer Channel plans to broadcast an additional 31 games in HD.
-- Eighty-five percent of games will be played on weekends, impressive considering the two-week break the league will take during the first round of the World Cup. There will be two games on June 10, a couple of days before the U.S. meets England in Rustenburg, and then no others until San Jose visits champion Real Salt Lake on June 25.
-- The New York Red Bulls will open their by-all-accounts spectacular new stadium on March 27 against Chicago on ESPN. We hear NYRB is doing some serious marketing up there and even has wrapped buses in ads promoting the team and the new ground.
-- The expansion Union will play their first home match on April 10 at Lincoln Financial Field against D.C. United. The new stadium in Chester will open in the summer.
-- The year's first competitive match will be a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal between Columbus and Toluca on March 9. The second leg is March 17.
-- The all-star game is slated for Houston, but no date or opponent has been decided. The MLS Cup final has a date -- Nov. 21 -- but no venue. The league only recently decided to continue the neutral site format after considering putting the championship match in the stadium of the higher seed.
-- No mention of the SuperLiga tournament pitting four MLS clubs with four Mexican teams. It's a fun event, but the ongoing CBA negotiations, the compressed schedule resulting from the World Cup break and potential Mexican issues over timing have delayed an announcement. The MLS clubs that would qualify are Houston, Chicago, Chivas USA and New England.