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MLS Planning To Abandon Balanced Schedule In 2012, Play 34 Games

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Anonymous league sources confirm that MLS is planning to stick with 34-game schedule, rather than expand to 36 games and maintain balance.

Anyone paying attention to the current crop of season-ticket renewal requests that have been sent out in recent weeks has probably noticed that teams are moving forward with the assumption that they will play 17 home league games. That would obviously equate to a 34-game regular-season schedule. With 19 teams in MLS in 2012, it all points directly to an unbalanced schedule.

Now, two independent league sources have confirmed that MLS is, in fact, planning the 2012 season under the assumption that the 34-game schedule will be maintained, meaning at least a temporary abandonment of balance. The league reportedly considered extending the schedule to 36 games as a way of maintaining balance, but the eventual inclusion of a 20th team made that less desirable.

The league will almost certainly consist of two conferences, with one consisting of nine teams and the other consisting of 10. While no decision seems to have been made about the Houston Dynamo, it would seem to make sense to move them back to the Western Conference where they would be reconnected with Texas rival FC Dallas. Such a move would also make sense under the assumption that team No. 20 will be in New York.

Under this plan, teams would play all in-conference opponents twice and most out-of-conference opponents once. The unbalanced nature of the conferences will mean that all teams won't play the same number of out-of-conference games. This will also mark the first time that every MLS team will not visit and host every other MLS team at least once.