Unbalanced Major League Soccer schedule leaves a bad taste

January 6, 2012 at 2:36 am | Posted in Whitecaps Season 2012 | Leave a comment

Today Major League Soccer announced its regular season schedule for 2012. Unlike 2011, where every team in the league played all of the other teams in a home and away match, this year we will play our Western Conference rivals three times and our Eastern Conference rivals only once.

This means we Whitecaps fans will not see some teams in the Eastern Conference play at BC Place this year at all. While we may see TFC in the Canadian Championship (depending on the format of that competition) , we will not see them in a MLS league match at BC Place. We will not see Columbus, New England, Chicago or Philadelphia either.

The reason the league chose to implement an unbalanced schedule is because of the massive cost of travel for the teams all over North America, and the fact the Montreal Impact will be joining the league which would add two games and the resulting extra travel to an already crowded fixture and travel schedule.  League statistics also show that the travel of visiting teams over the vast distances of North America is exhausting them so much that they are rarely successful on the road, giving home teams an unfair advantage.

While the practicality of the reasons given for the new unbalanced schedule all make perfectly good sense (one only has to look at the 60,000k  or so the Whitecaps logged last year), as a fan the new schedule feels like a take away.  It is rather like booking an airline ticket and then getting dinged with fees for your bags and seats at the check-in desk. Frankly, the prospect of seeing San Jose twice this year at BC Place does not thrill me, in fact it already seems like a bit of a bore.

I would rather the league shortened the playoff format and played a balanced schedule.  The league has gone in the opposite direction, unfortunately, lengthening the playoff format and reducing the fans exposure to the teams in the league.  The league brags that the season will be the longest in MLS history, but what about value and quality for the fans?  This has been reduced. 

The constant fiddling about with the format for both the playoffs and the regular season does harm to the MLS.  It feels like a story which is being desperately concocted as it is being told, with the result that the plot is hard to follow and the reasoning beggars all belief. One wonders when the league will settle down into a successful format.

On a rational level, the unbalanced schedule makes some sense, but the league has made the mistake of preferring rationality over what its fans want.  Rather than adding value, the MLS has taken value away from its fans.  I believe the MLS has made a poor decision.

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