Last week I had some random thoughts on my old blog about the Chivas USA hiatus and one of the questions revolved around the thought of conference realignment.
We've pretty much assumed for almost two years that once New York City FC and Orlando City SC enter MLS that the league would have to restructure the conference set up. Now with Chivas USA going out of business for at least two years (while they rebrand and all that jazz), it will leave the Western Conference with a bit of a gap to fill.
Without a doubt the league will move the Houston Dynamo back to the West to help balance things out, that was always the thought before Chivas was opting to go away. That still means the conferences would be uneven unless the league moves one more club to the West.
The options are pretty clear when you look at it to balance the league out. Either you go with Sporting KC or you go with the Chicago Fire. The easy money is on Sporting KC to move West.
One Twitter post that is floating around this afternoon examined that thought and came up with a fairly good approach to how the league could look next year and have our lovely balanced schedules again.
With Chivas USA gone, MLS can make a feasible 4 division, 32 game regular season: pic.twitter.com/45rQ9bl0sW— Mike McGrew (@CincySporting) October 8, 2014
Off the top I think I like this idea. The league won't go away from the two conference set up any time soon. Not until all clubs are making loads of money and can handle putting up teams on private charters for travel and a slew of other things. In other words, single table just isn't going to happen any time soon.
The league thrives on rivalries and this set up would help keep a lot of rivalries going. At least in the Western Conference it would.
The whole divisional idea is intriguing to me though. Part of me still thinks the unbalanced schedules will come into play next year so the league can capitalize on rivalries.
What about the playoffs?
I keep wondering how the league will handle the playoffs once they add more teams. Back in the day when eight teams reached the post season out of 10 teams it was laughable but I feel as though we're at a good spot with 10 out of 20 making the post season.
But say the league does go to a possible division format within each conference, would adding two more teams make sense? Think of it this way, the division winners all get a bye in the first round of the playoffs while the second place teams battle the third place teams from the other division. The winners battle the top teams from the divisions in the conference semifinals and the rest is pretty much like what we see today with the conference finals and MLS Cup following after that.
It should be noted that nothing is set in stone at this point. MLS could mess with us all and keep unbalanced conferences and schedules in 2015. I just hope they don't reach into old tricks and do a three conference thing like they had in the early 2000s. That was horrible.
Still, the teams in the West are getting a raw deal in a way out of this expansion next year. And will likely continue to as we get teams from Miami and Atlanta joining down the road. In some ways I guess it is fair when you consider that from 2007 there were four expansion teams added to the West while the East only picked up three.