Since Montreal is joining the MLS and they will be the 19th club in the league there are some tweaks to the schedule and playoffs with an odd number of teams.
Montreal will be joining the Eastern Conference so there will now be 10 teams in that conference as opposed to 9 in the Western Conference.
One thing that will not change is that the season will still have 34 games.
Clubs that are in the Western Conference, including Seattle, Vancouver, and Portland, will play each other 3 times in the season 2 times at home and 1 away and then that will switch the following season.
In the Eastern Conference the clubs will play 25 conference matches.
One of the biggest tweaks for the upcoming MLS season is that the finals will no longer be held at a neutral site, but the club with the most points of the 2 in the finals will be the host.
Talk about home field advantage.
The final had been held at a neutral site since the MLS began back in 1996.
The playoffs will also change and while there will still be 10 teams that make the playoffs, moving forward only the top 5 teams from the Western and Eastern Conference will qualify for the post-season without the wild cards.
The 4th seeded team in each of the conferences will play host to the 5th seed for only 1 match where the winner will play the #1 seed in the conference semis.
One more big change for next season is that rather than playing a 1 match / 1 leg series in the Conference Championships it will now be a 2-leg series.
In a statement by Nelson Rodriguez, who is the MLS Executive Vice President, he said about the new regular season and playoff format,
“The MLS Cup Playoff format in 2012 gives increased reward to clubs that fare well in the regular season and removes the possibility of clubs winning the opposite conference championship.
Having a competitively determined site for the MLS Cup is one of the most exciting improvements our Board of Governors has adopted.
We believe this provides every club a tremendous incentive during our regular season and ensures a festive and boisterous setting for our championship game.”
The Portland Timbers will be at home in the last game of the first round of matches on Monday March 12th.
I for one can’t wait for March to get here.