Tonight is the big MLS Cup Final and this afternoon MLS announced the much speculated schedule changes to take effect in 2012. Here's a quick rundown of what's going to happen in 2012:
-34 game unbalanced schedule featuring 24 games against Western Conference opponents and 10 games against Eastern Conference opponents.
-MLS Cup will be played at the higher seed of the championship game meaning every team goes into the season with a chance of hosting the final game.
-The MLS Cup Playoffs will see the top 5 teams in each conference make it. The #4 seed will play #5 to face the #1 seed in a two-legged conference semifinal. The winners of the #1 vs #4/5 and #2 vs #3 will play in the Conference Finals which will be two legs as well. A big change from the past.
Overall, I think this is a great schedule. It's just not feasible to play a 36 game balanced schedule. Not when you have a country as large as the United States. However, this schedule is a bit of a drag from a Dallas fan standpoint as the two closest road-trippable games, Kansas City and Houston, will only be played once a year with both of those games possibly being played in Frisco.
This also means that the rivalry between Houston and Dallas, the battle for El Capitan, will be played just once a year, with Dallas potentially not visiting Houston's new stadium until the 2013 season. There will also be only one game played a year with Brimstone Cup rivals Chicago Fire.
Another frustrating aspect of things is that what is done in the regular season can decide who hosts MLS Cup despite the fact that the schedules will not be close to the same. Obviously things can change big time from year to year, but the Western Conference has been unquestionably stronger than the Eastern Conference in the past few years. When 3 or 4 points can make a huge difference, having to play LA, Seattle and RSL three times as opposed to KC, Philly and Houston in regular season can change everything.
What do you think of these changes? Are you pumped about a winner-take-all matchup with Houston or does it cheapen things to have just one game decide the trophy?