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MLS has balancing act with 2011 schedule

League weighing competitive fairness against rivalries and travel

MLS commissioner Don Garber

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

In an interview with SoccerAmerica, MLS Commissioner Don Garber says a decision is being weighed between“two approaches”: 1) maintaining the balanced format of 2010 in which everyteam plays the others the same number of times; or 2) moving back to anunbalanced 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 tocore fans, coaches and technical directors, “who think perhaps it’s the fairestway to determine which team is best in the league.”  

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

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

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

“Now that we have Champions League and Open Cup, travel hasbecome a big issue, affecting the health and fitness of our players,” Garbertold Soccer America. “It has nothingto do with expense. It has to do with putting our best game forward.”

When the league unveiled the increased number of matches of the 2011 regularseason, it refrained from revealing whether the schedule would be balanced ornot in order to give time for the evaluation process currently being led by the CompetitionCommittee.

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

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