MLS Has Balancing Act in 2011

League weighing competitive fairness vs. rivalries and travel

NEW YORK – There is an ongoing discussion taking place in MLS circles that is central to what the league’s 34-game regular season will look like in 2011.

In an interview with Soccer America, MLS Commissioner Don Garber says a decision is being weighed between “two approaches”: 1) maintaining the balanced format of 2010 in which every team plays the others the same number of times; or 2) moving back to an unbalanced schedule that promotes rivalries.

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Garber points out that the balanced schedule, implemented for the first time in league history during 2010, has value to core fans, coaches and technical directors, “who think perhaps it’s the fairest way to determine which team is best in the league.”  

The other scenario being entertained by the league allows for more matches with geographic or historic rivals.

“You get an increased chance of a truly memorable moment that could be put forth on a more regular basis,” he said.

With two new expansion clubs joining the fold in 2011 and four additional regular-season matches being added to an already-congested schedule, an unbalanced schedule would also help in reducing the overall travel miles, especially for teams involved in non-league competitions.

“Now that we have Champions League and Open Cup, travel has become a big issue, affecting the health and fitness of our players,” Garber told Soccer America. “It has nothing to do with expense. It has to do with putting our best game forward.”

When the league unveiled the increased number of matches for the 2011 regular season, it refrained from revealing whether the schedule would be balanced or not in order to give time for the evaluation process currently being led by the Competition Committee.

A final decision on the schedule is expected before MLS Cup 2010.

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